At the disciplinary hearing where Hartley’s suspension was reduced from 12 weeks to eight England forwards coach Graham Rowntree backed the Northampton star to be a future Red Rose skipper.
Rowntree told the board Hartley was “very close to having been made captain and might well soon become captain”.
Hartley could have faced a much longer ban given his six-month suspension back in 2007 for gouging Jonny O’Connor and James Haskell in the same game.
But Rowntree and Northampton head coach Jim Mallinder insisted on attending the hearing to speak on Hartley’s behalf and detailed the “massive change” he has seen in the player since his “struggle in 2007”.
The full written judgement details Rowntree describing Hartley, who will be available for England’s tour to South Africa this summer, as “a beacon and a leader” during England’s recent troubled times and he added “no-one had more credibility with his peers”.
© Sportsbeat 2012
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