Hartley fears he won't cast off 'pariah' image
ESPN Staff
January 13, 2014
Dylan Hartley sees red - 'Everything went into slow motion. My head was empty' © PA Photos

Dylan Hartley has told the Daily Mail he fears he will never shake off his bad-boy image following a number of clashes with authority culminating in his high-profile dismissal in last season's Premiership final after calling referee Wayne Barnes a '****ing cheat'. The red card not only scuppered Northampton's chances of victory but cost Harley his place on the Lions tour.

"'I felt like a pariah and I cemented a reputation that I am resigned to never losing," he told the newspaper. "I don't think anything worse can happen to me in rugby.

A tale of trouble

  • 2007 - 26-week ban for gouging during a Premiership match causes him to miss the 2007 World Cup
    2012 - Eight-week ban for biting Ireland's Stephen Ferris in a Six Nations match
    2012 - Two-week ban after being found guilty for punching in a Heineken Cup tie
    2013 - 11-week ban for calling the referee a 'f****** cheat' during the Aviva Premiership final

Hartley still maintains that he was hard done by. After already being warned by Barnes about his language, he reacted to a decision to award Leicester a penalty in front of the posts on the stroke of half time. "I was walking back and said those words to myself in frustration. 'I wasn't looking at anyone but they were about Tom [Youngs, Leicester's hooker].

"It wasn't about the ref but I can see how it could have been interpreted that way and I understand why I ended up with the ban.

'What have I learned from all this? I've learned that I have a lot of baggage and that doesn't make it any easier for me. I've learned that maybe because it was me who swore in the final, as opposed to someone else, it resulted in a red card. I've made it harder for myself but I've only got myself to blame.

"I've learned that from now on I have to be whiter than white with all refs. I can't afford another ban in rugby. If I do get one, that's it with England. I know that. It's down to me to make sure it never happens again.

"I'm very driven to make the 2017 Lions tour, especially as it's in New Zealand, and to lift some silverware for Northampton. I owe the club that much. If I fail, I'll just become a bitter and twisted old man."

He said that while he wanted to change people's perception of him, he did not think it would happen and that years of being targeted, especially on social media, "have almost made me immune" to abuse.

This season, so far, has goner much better. "I'm enjoying my rugby and I'm back to doing what I do best. You've just got to get on with it, haven't you and hope that it all works out in the end."

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