Hartley World Cup ban fear adds to Lancaster selection problems

Ross McLean
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Hooker Dylan Hartley has won 66 England caps
ENGLAND hooker Dylan Hartley is in danger of missing this autumn’s home World Cup after being cited for foul play during Northampton’s semi-final defeat to Saracens on Saturday.

Saints skipper Hartley will appear before a three-man disciplinary panel in Coventry today after clashing with Saracens counterpart Jamie George during his side’s 29-24 defeat and being reported for striking an opponent with his head.

The lower end of the suspension scale for such an offence is a four-week ban, rising to 12 or more depending on the severity of the incident. England’s first pool match at the World Cup is on Friday 18 September against Fiji.

But with Hartley’s domestic season now over, any suspension is unlikely to kick in until the start of England’s World Cup warm-up programme, which starts on 15 August when France visit Twickenham.

The 29-year-old’s brush with authority is the latest headache for England head coach Stuart Lancaster and comes weeks after he ruled out selecting Manu Tuilagi until at least January after the Leicester centre admitted assaulting two female police officers.

Hartley, who has won 66 international caps, has a long list of misdemeanours and has previously been warned by Lancaster over his future conduct after being banned five times for ill-discipline.