Rugby World Cup 2015: England axe Dylan Hartley from squad
Northampton Saints hooker removed from England's 50-man training squad following four-week ban, replaced by Jamie George
Dylan Hartley has been dropped from the England training squad for the Rugby World Cup after his four-week ban for headbutting Saracens hooker Jamie George.
The Northampton Saints skipper was handed a four-week ban for his latest indiscretion, which he pleaded guilty to at a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing this week and opted not to appeal the sanction handed down to him.
I have spoken to him and he knows he has let himself and everyone down…we have been left with no choice but to replace him.
Given the lack of matches before England begin their preparations for the tournament they will host in September and October, the ban means that Hartley would miss all three of the Red Rose’s warm-up matches and the opening Pool A match against Fiji.
Given the hooker would not have played any competitive rugby for four months ahead of England’s second pool stage match against Wales, head coach Stuart Lancaster has decided to drop Hartley from his 50-man extended training squad.
“We are obviously very disappointed with the situation that Dylan has put himself in and where that leaves us as a squad,” Lancaster said.
“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.”
Lancaster had already warned the 29-year-old that his England career was at risk if he failed to improve on a poor disciplinary record that will now see him suspended for more than 52 weeks in his professional career.
I am devastated with what has happened and the position I have put myself and the England team in…what happened is not acceptable and I understand why this decision has been made.
Hartley’s lengthy record of misdemeanors goes back to 2007 when he was banned for 26 weeks for eye gouging. Since then, he has been banned for a variety of cheap shots, including abusing referee Wayne Barnes in an Aviva Premiership final, which cost him his place on the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2013.
Despite several warnings about cleaning up his act, Hartley has proven he can’t keep his emotions in check and has paid the ultimate price as George (pictured above), his victim in the latest incident, takes his place in the England squad for the once in a lifetime tournament.
And former schoolteacher Lancaster, who earlier this month axed Manu Tuilagi following a conviction for assault, felt he had no option but to replace the man who has been his first-choice hooker.
“It also goes without saying that we need all our players to be able to control their discipline and make good decisions under pressure,” Lancaster added.
“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 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.”