By Lee Stace
WHAT a disgrace.
England hooker Dylan Hartley has only received an eight-week suspension for biting Ireland loose forward Stephen Ferris during the Six Nations, meaning he is available for England selection when the side takes on the Springboks in a three-test series in June.
His suspension is four weeks fewer than the low-end entry point in the International Rugby Board’s table of sanctions!
Unbelievable, especially as some would claim that Hartley is bad to the bone. That the New Zealand-born rake is ill-disciplined and a bit of a thug on the field.
Hartley is no stranger to those who sit on the disciplinary panels in Europe.
A trouble-maker by nature, he was banned for 26 weeks for eye-gouging James Haskell and Jonny O’Connor during the Northampton v London Wasps game in 2007.
He also dropped a forearm on a prone Richie McCaw at Twickenham in 2010, was implicated alongside Haskell and Chris Ashton in an alleged sexual harassment incident involving a Dunedin hotel maid during last year’s Rugby World Cup, and took part in the alleged mistreatment of dwarves during the England team’s infamous night out in Queenstown.
Off-field shenanigans aside, it was thought that Hartley would have the book thrown at him for his latest indiscretion given his previous rap sheet.
Biting carries a low-end entry point of a 12-week suspension, while the mid-range punishment is 18 weeks and there is a ban of 24-plus weeks at the top end. The maximum sanction is a four-year punishment.
Hartley got off lightly. He was handed a 12-week suspension which was then reduced by the panel to eight weeks on account of his ‘good behaviour’ in the last five years.
The 25-year old then had the cheek to say that he was “disappointed with the result” after the hearing.
God only knows why. Especially as Hartley’s ban lapses on May 14, meaning he will be free to travel with England to South Africa in June.
He should be counting his lucky stars, as the punishment could – and should – have been more severe.
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.