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Rory Best receives Lions call-up as Dylan Hartley gets 11-week ban

The England hooker was reprimanded for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes.

Rory Best will replace Dylan Hartley in the Lions squad.
Rory Best will replace Dylan Hartley in the Lions squad.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS coach Warren Gatland has replaced the suspended Dylan Hartley with Ulster and Ireland hooker Rory Best for the upcoming tour to Australia.

Hartley’s foul-mouthed rant during the Aviva Premiership Final defeat to Leicester Tigers has cost him a spot in the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia.

The Northampton Saints and England hooker was given a red card by Wayne Barnes at Twickenham yesterday after calling the referee ‘a fucking cheat’. Hartley met with a disciplinary board in London this morning and was hit with an 11-week ban.

Ulster hooker Rory Best, who was mentioned by Lions forwards coach Graham Rowntree as ‘unfortunate to miss out’ on the initial squad selection for the four nations squad, was the next hooker in line. Lions tour manager Andy Irvine, said:

We leave on tour tomorrow. With uncertainty over the availability of Hartley to tour, and with the first of 10 matches only days away we had no option but to call up the additional player. Despite the circumstances we should congratulate Rory, who will join the squad tomorrow and fly with us to Hong Kong.

A final decision on whether Dylan Hartley will take any part in the tour will depend on the outcome of any potential appeal.”

Best and Hartley clash in 2011. (©INPHO/James Crombie)

Earlier in the day, a statement from the RFU read: “At the hearing [Hartley] pleaded not guilty but the panel found him guilty and determined that this was mid-range on the scale of seriousness. The entry point for mid-range is a suspension of twelve weeks and that was reduced by one week to reflect his good conduct at the hearing. He is suspended from today [May 26] until July 6 and from August 17 to August 31 and free to play again on September 1.

In accordance with the Lion tour agreement the six-week tour of Australia represents eight of the eleven weeks suspension because of the tour schedule. The remaining three weeks of the suspension cover three of Northampton Saints’ pre-season matches.”

Judge Jeff Blackett said: “We cannot get around the fact that Wayne Barnes was certain that Mr. Hartley’s comments were directed at him. Wayne Barnes said that if he had had any doubt in his mind, then he would have given the player the benefit of the doubt.

“In terms of sanction, calling a referee a cheat is an attack on his integrity and contrary to the core values of rugby and therefore we have taken a serious view and provided a serious sanction.”

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