ENGLAND hooker Dylan Hartley will miss the opening game of the Rugby World Cup after being slapped with a four-week ban for headbutting an opponent at a disciplinary hearing last night.
Northampton skipper Hartley received the lowest possible ban for the offence after clashing with Saracens’ counterpart Jamie George during his side’s 29-24 Premiership semi-final defeat on Saturday.
The 29-year-old has previously been warned about his future conduct by England head coach Stuart Lancaster but will now serve the sixth suspension of his career – in total accounting for 54 weeks – between 15 August and 21 September.
Hartley will miss England’s three warm-up matches as well as the start of their World Cup campaign, which gets underway which a Pool A clash against Fiji at Twickenham on Friday 18 September.
“There cannot be any place in our game for this class of behaviour, and that is why we have imposed the sanction,” said disciplinary committee chairman Sean Enright. Hartley’s rap sheet includes a 26-week ban for eye-gouging Wasps duo James Haskell and Jonny O’Connor in 2007 and an eight-week suspension for biting Ireland forward Stephen Ferris in the 2012 Six Nations.
He also missed the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia after being handed an 11-week suspension, having been dismissed in the Premiership final for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes.