Hartley in doubt for British & Irish Lions tour

England hooker Dylan Hartley could be out of the British and Irish Lions tour
to Australia after being sent off in Northampton’s 37-17 defeat by Leicester
in the English Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.

Hooker Hartley saw red when he allegedly accused referee Wayne Barnes of cheating
as a fractious match neared half-time and the incident overshadowed Leicester’s
first title since 2010.

Barnes had previously warned Hartley about inappropriate language but when
the Northampton captain apparently accused the official of favouring Leicester
he was sent off.

Hartley could be banned for up to a year but will have to wait for the Rugby
Union’s disciplinary process to kick in.

The Lions fly to Hong Kong on Monday and a spokesman for the tourists indicated
to reporters at Twickenham that coach Warren Gatland wanted all players to be
available for the match in Perth against the Force on June 5, the second of
the trip after the first game against the Barbarians in the Far East next week.

Hartley’s track record may count against him – he has been banned three times
since 2007, twice for gouging – and although the Lions emphasised the matter
was out their hands for the time being, any suspension of two weeks or more
would rule him out of the entire trip.

Due to the Lions departure on Monday Hartley’s hearing will be heard early
on Sunday morning and he will have to answer the charge of alleged verbal abuse
of a match official contrary to Law 10(4)(s).

The rumpus overshadowed a see-saw match between two local rivals with Leicester
bidding to win the title after being runners-up for the last two years.

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: “You know how Wayne
Barnes referees and we spoke the whole week about discipline because we have
been stung in finals with early yellow cards. He likes to be treated with respect.

“In a game as big as this you would imagine Wayne Barnes would be 100
per cent in what he is thinking. I don’t want players sent off.

“But Barnes is a very experienced referee, one of the top two or three
in the world. That’s why he gets these games. There’s enough history between
Northampton and Leicester to know that discipline is going to be a key part
of the game.”

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder added: “We don’t know what
is going on the field. 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.”

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