British & Irish Lions
Hartley doubt for Lions after red card
ESPN Staff
May 25, 2013
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill reflects on an eventful final

England hooker Dylan Hartley's British & Irish Lions hopes are hanging by a thread after he was sent-off in the Aviva Premiership final.

The Northampton captain was dismissed just before half-time at Twickenham for what seemed to be dissent levelled towards referee Wayne Barnes after he awarded the Tigers a penalty. Hartley had been warned about his language by Barnes just two minutes before he was sent off.

Barnes had told him: "Please keep your comments to yourself or I may have to deal with it. Do not talk to me like that."

Hartley will face a disciplinary hearing on Sunday morning with the penalty for verbal abuse of a match official ranging from six to 18 weeks. If Hartley is found guilty then it would all but end his hopes of touring with the Lions.

Warren Gatland's squad depart for Hong Kong on Monday with the opening fixture of their 10-match against the Barbarians scheduled for Saturday. A spokesman for the Lions told Press Association Sport that if Hartley receives a suspension which was to rule him out of the second match of the tour, against Western Force on June 5, then he would be replaced in the squad.

"The coaches and the team regather tomorrow. There will be an assessment of the situation and it is out of our hands," the spokesman said. "Warren Gatland has always indicated that these players (competing in Premiership and PRO12 finals) would not play in the first match against the Barbarians but they would have to be available for the second match of the tour.

"That is the criteria for Hartley coming on tour. If he gets a suspension that prevents him from making that second game then that is where we are."

And post-match, Saints coach Jim Mallinder insisted Hartley's verbal tirade was levelled towards a Leicester player, not referee Barnes. Mallinder said: "I asked Dylan at half-time and I've just asked him again 'what happened? What did you say?' He said he was talking to Tom Youngs.

"If you talk like that to a player I wouldn't expect anything to happen. Clearly, Wayne Barnes has believed Dylan has spoken to him. I support Dylan. He is my captain. If he says he wasn't speaking to the referee and he was speaking to a player on the floor I can only support what he says."

Hartley's dismissal on Saturday was the latest disciplinary blemish on his career. In April 2007, he was banned for 26 weeks after being found guilty of eye-gouging James Haskell and Jonny O'Connor while on domestic duty. In March 2012, he was suspended for eight weeks after being found guilty of biting Ireland forward Stephen Ferris in a Six Nations match. And just eight months later he was banned for two weeks for punching Ulster hooker Rory Best in a Heineken Cup match.

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder: "It massively changed the game"

Mallinder continued: "We will support Dylan. He said that a number of senior players that were around the ball agreed with Dylan that he was looking down and speaking to Tom Youngs."

At the end of an incident-packed final, Mallinder described the red card as a key turning point. The Northampton boss referred to an interview Barnes did earlier in the week in which he said the aim for officials is "not to be noticed".

"I feel sorry for him (Dylan) and for the team," he said. "It was a massive turning point. I read Wayne Barnes didn't want to be the referee to make a decision - he wanted the rugby to determine who won the game. It was a massive decision that Wayne made."

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: "We know how Wayne Barnes likes to referee. He likes to be treated with respect. To be fair, in a game as big as this you would imagine Wayne would be 100 per cent in what he is thinking. I don't want to see a bloke sent off the field.

"Barnes is a very experienced referee, he is one of the top two or three in the world I am led to believe, that is why he gets these games. There has been enough history between Northampton and Leicester to know that discipline will be a key part to the game."

The Hartley incident was not the only moment of controversy in the game. Flood, the Leicester captain, failed to see out the first half after suffering concussion in a tackle from Courtney Lawes. Barnes penalised Lawes but did not show him a yellow card. Cockerill was furious, arguing it could have deserved more and that the decision should have been referred to the television match official.

At half time, Northampton assistant coach Dorian West told ESPN that Cockerill had been "intimidating" match officials, although Mallinder said he did not believe that exchange influenced the Hartley decision.

Cockerill said: "They were calling for a spinal board because our player has been hit late. I was saying to the fourth official 'surely we need to go to the TMO'. I said the same to (referees' chief) Ed Morrison.

"We used the TMO the whole season. It has been called foul play, we get a penalty so it is clearly foul play, it is late and you have broken an international fly-half who is very important to our game. For me, that is the sanction of a yellow card and potentially more. A guy has had to leave the field because of that incident.

"So it is okay to hit players late and it is okay to leave the field concussed is it? I am protecting my players. I am allowed to talk to the officials. When a player of ours is potentially seriously injured I will talk to whoever I want.

"How Northampton decide to behave is up to them. I didn't ask anybody to hit anybody late. I didn't ask anybody to swear at anybody, did I? Before they make any smart-arse comments about me, maybe they want to look at themselves because my players weren't accusing the referee of anything or hitting people late."

Reflecting on the result, Cockerill said: "It is a great victory for us today. This is a club steeped in history. We talk a lot about all the other great teams and the Martin Johnsons and the Neil Backs and all those who have gon before them. But now it is about this team in 2013."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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