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Hartley axed from England's World Cup squad after headbutt ban

The Northampton hooker says he is ‘devastated with what has happened’.

DYLAN HARTLEY HAS been axed from England’s World Cup squad following the latest in a long line of major disciplinary issues.

The Northampton Saints hooker was handed a four-week ban earlier this week after being found guilty of a headbutt on Saracens front row Jamie George during last weekend’s Premiership semi-finals.

Dylan Hartley Hartley will play no part in the 2015 World Cup. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Having already cut centre Manu Tuilagi from his World Cup training group after the Leicester man was charged with assault, England boss Stuart Lancaster has taken similar measures with Hartley.

Hartley’s suspension, which he decided not to appeal, means he would have missed England’s World Cup warm-up schedule, as well as their opening game of the tournament against Fiji on 18 September.

As it happens, Saracens hooker George is the man to replace Hartley in England’s World Cup training group.

“We are obviously very disappointed with the situation that Dylan has put himself in and where that leaves us as a squad,” said Lancaster. “I have spoken to him and he knows he has let himself and everyone down.

If we selected him in the World Cup squad he would have played no competitive rugby at all and we would be left exposed with only two available hookers in what is a specialised position going into the Fiji game.

“All it would take is one injury during the week of the Fiji game and we would only have one fit hooker in the squad for our crucial opening game and this would leave us massively exposed.

“In addition, the regulations also clearly state that in our World Cup squad we must have sufficient cover that is suitably trained and experienced in the front row in case of injury. This is clearly not the case if we begin the tournament with a suspended hooker and as such we have been left with no choice but to replace him.

“It also goes without saying that we need all our players to be able to control their discipline and make good decisions under pressure, the World Cup will clearly require this, and Dylan has not clearly displayed this in this latest incident. This is an area that he still needs to address.

Dylan Hartley and Stuart Lancaster dejected after the game Lancaster has dropped Hartley from his training group. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Dylan will be replaced by Jamie George in the World Cup squad and will not be considered until the suspension is served. Jamie has obviously played well for Saracens this season and I’m sure will work extremely hard to take his opportunity.”

This is the latest in a long, long line of charges of dangerous play against the volatile Hartley, whose career has been stunted by repeated incidents of this nature.

The Saints hooker expressed remorse on this occasion, as he has done on a number of times previously.

I am devastated with what has happened and the position I have put myself and the England team in,” said Hartley.

“I would like to apologise to Jamie, Stuart, and my team mates both at Saints as well as England. What happened is not acceptable and I understand why this decision has been made.”

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Murray Kinsella

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