Rugby chief Ian Ritchie has defended Dylan Hartley’s conduct since being England skipper and believes he has sufficient credit in the bank to remain as captain despite the threat of a Six Nations ban.
Northampton hooker Hartley is set to face an independent disciplinary hearing on Wednesday after being shown the third red card of his career for tackling Leinster’s Sean O’Brien from behind with a swinging arm on Friday.
The 30-year-old has served 54 weeks of bans during a chequered career, and faces a further suspension of five to eight weeks, which could be extended due to his track record. England begin their Six Nations campaign against France on 4 February.
“Dylan has clearly played a fantastic part in captaining the team, on and off the pitch just to be clear,” said Rugby Football Union chief executive Ritchie. “His leadership credentials are very strong. He’s made a huge contribution.
“If he’s eligible for selection it’s ultimately a matter for Eddie [Jones], but we should recognise and support all that Dylan has done in the last 12 months. It is primarily a matter for Eddie and if you look back over it, Eddie’s judgement has been really good.”
Hartley, who has guided England to 13 successive victories during 2016, has a previous rap sheet which includes biting, gouging and butting, a record that is likely to count against him when the sanction is imposed.