Rugby World Cup 2015: Dylan Hartley banned for England’s first game

Northampton hooker hit with four-week ban for headbutt incident, will be free to play three days after Red Rose play Fiji

Dylan Hartley will miss England’s Rugby World Cup opener against Fiji after a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel banned him for four weeks.

The Northampton Saints hooker, who has a poor disciplinary record, was found guilty of headbutting Jamie George in the second half of the Saints’ 29-24 Aviva Premiership semi-final defeat to Saracens at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

There cannot be any place in our game for this class of behaviour, and that is why we have imposed this sanction.

His Honour Judge Sean Enright

While the England man wasn’t punished for the incident on the field, he was later cited, and pleaded guilty to the charge of striking with the head at a hearing in Coventry on Wednesday night.

His Honour Judge Sean Enright, who chaired the hearing alongside Mike Hamlin and Tony Wheat, insisted that while there was no injury arising from the incident, it has no place in the game.

“This offence falls within the low entry point for striking with the head,” Judge Enright said.

“There was no significant injury to the other party, the opposition player was not removed from the field of play, and the incident did not affect the game.

“However, there cannot be any place in our game for this class of behaviour, and that is why we have imposed this sanction.”

With Saints’ season over, the suspension comes into effect on Saturday 15 August, when England are due to take on France in a Rugby World Cup warm-up at Twickenham.

Hartley will also miss England’s further warm-up matches against France at the Stade de France and Ireland at Twickenham, and will be free to play on Monday 21 September, three days after England’s opening Pool A match against Fiji.

The player has the right of appeal against the length of the suspension.

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