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Dylan Hartley may have talked himself off the Lions tour

The hooker was red carded in Northampton’s 37-17 Premiership final defeat to Leicester.

RORY BEST’S HOPES of a late call-up to the British and Irish Lions have been given a massive boost today.

Dylan Hartley, the man many believed to be fortunate to be selected ahead of the Ulster hooker by Warren Gatland was red carded on the stroke of half-time in today’s 37-17 Premiership final defeat.

With Northampton trailing Leicester 13-5, Saints had a 22 drop-out which referee Wayne Barnes warned Hartley could not be kicked directly out of play.

The ball was hit directly across the touchline and Leicester took the option of a scrum. After a penalty was awarded to Leicester from the set-piece, Barnes could clearly be heard through his microphone telling Hartley; “You called me a ‘fucking cheat’” before showing the hooker a straight red card.

YouTube credit: Paul Charlton-Thomson

Post-match, Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder insisted the expletive was not directed at the referee:

“We don’t know what is going on on the field.” Mallinder told AFP. “I asked Dylan what he said and he said he was talking to Ben Youngs. There is a lot worse than that going on the field.”

However, with a referee’s testimony against him, Hartley will be cited and could face a lengthy ban.

Italy captain Sergio Parisse was this year issued a 40-day ban for insulting a referee.

That ban was later reduced on appeal to 20 days, but with Lions games ready to come thick and fast between now and the first Test on 22 June, Gatland reportedly wants a fully available squad by the time the Lions arrive in Perth to face the Western Force on 5  June.

Therefore, a ban of two weeks or over will result in him being dropped from the squad.

- Additional reporting - © AFP, 2013

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