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Possibility of becoming England captain helped Hartley get a lighter ban for biting

The Northampton Saints hooker was given glowing references by forwards coach Graham Rowntree during his disciplinary hearing for the incident involving Stephen Ferris.

Hartley playing for England.
Hartley playing for England.
Image: David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images

ENGLAND HOOKER DYLAN HARTLEY could become team captain in the near future, according to forwards coach Graham Rowntree.

The 26-year-old was last week found guilty of biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris during their Six Nations match at Twickenham on St Patrick’s Day but only received an eight-week ban, which ends on May 14, when a lengthier suspension was expected.

In their investigation, the independent disciplinary committee chose to ignore an incident in 2007 which Hartley received a six-month ban for eye-gouging two Wasps players and were presented with character references from Rowntree and Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

Rowntree called Hartley “a beacon and a leader” at the hearing and claimed his reputation as a dirty player is “completely unfounded” before adding that he “was very close to having been made captain of the national team and might well soon become captain”.

According to The Guardian, those statements along with the fact that his record has been clean for five years are believed to be the main reasons behind his shortened suspension. Hartley will now be available to play in the Aviva Premiership final if Northampton qualify as well as England’s summer tour of South Africa.

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Ben Blake

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