Law bites for hooker Hartley

Tue, 27 Mar 2012 00:00
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England hooker Dylan Hartley has been banned for eight weeks after being found guilty of biting Ireland flank Stephen Ferris in their Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.

England hooker Dylan Hartley has been banned for eight weeks after being found guilty of biting Ireland flank Stephen Ferris in their Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.

The length of the ban means the Northampton Saints captain will  crucially be available for England's three-Test tour of South Africa in June.

Hartley was cited after a disciplinary panel found that he had contravened IRB Law 10.4(m) "acts contrary to good sportsmanship".

The panel heard evidence from Ferris, via video link, as well as Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder and England forwards coach Graham Rowntree.

In upholding the citing for foul play, the panel, chaired by Roger Morris of Wales, decided the offence merited a low entry point in the IRB's table of sanctions and allowed mitigation of four weeks.

A biting offence carries a low-end entry point of a 12-week suspension, with 18 weeks for mid-range and 24-plus weeks at the top end.

The 25-year-old New Zealand-born Hartley is free to play again on May 14 and he has the right of appeal.

Hartley said: "I am disappointed by the result and I will wait for the written judgment as to how the panel came to their conclusion. I now have to put it behind me and focus on supporting Saints in training and off the field."

Rowntree commented: "It is unfortunate for Dylan and Northampton, especially as he was in good form during the Six Nations, and he has developed as a player and a leader. However, we are looking forward to him being available for the tour to South Africa."

Ferris was heard accusing an England player of biting during the match.

Biting is a red card offence but as neither referee Nigel Owens nor his touch judges saw the incident, no action was taken during the game.

Owens, in a conversation recorded on his microphone in the 28th minute, told England captain Chris Robshaw and Ireland skipper Rory Best: "I have an accusation of biting, a clear mark on the finger.

"I did not see something... It could be dealt with afterwards."

There had been speculation the 39-times capped Hartley could be sidelined for a lot longer than two months, given his 26-week ban for gouging in 2007.

Back then he was punished for making contact with the eye areas of Wasps duo Jonny O'Connor and James Haskell during an English Premiership match.

However, it is believed that given the gap between the gouging incidents and this offence, the panel saw no need to link the two in any way.

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