Dylan Hartley has been cleared to play following a citing for a ‘reckless act’ that sore his flailing hand connect with the face of Clermont prop Rabah Slimani during a European Champions Cup match on Saturday. Northampton Saints have released a scathing statement on the citing.
Hartley will be free to play in England’s upcoming November Tests after a disciplinary committee ruled that the alleged strike to the nose of Slimani was not worthy of a red card.
Referee Ben Whitehouse, who took a huge amount of criticism for his handling of an incident-littered encounter, showed Hartley a yellow card, ruling that the strike was “reckless but not intentional”.
The disciplinary committee saw it in a similar light, stating the following:
“The disciplinary committee found that Hartley had committed a reckless act of foul play in that he had struck Slimani in the face, however the committee was not satisfied that the offence had warranted a red card,” EPCR said in a statement.
“The citing complaint was therefore dismissed and Hartley is free to play.”
England face Argentina on 11 November, Australia on 18 November and Samoa on 25 November.
Northampton Saints have issued the following statement in response to the outcome of the citing.
“The decision to cite Dylan from Saturday’s game against Clermont was unjustified,” said Saints’ director of rugby Jim Mallinder. “This was a run-of-the-mill rugby incident during a high intensity game of European rugby.
“Anyone who watched the game could see that this was completely accidental – a misjudgement at a clear–out, plain and simple. When we should be preparing for a crucial league game against Wasps this Saturday, we have instead been distracted by what we believe was an unwarranted judicial hearing.
“Citings like this do beg the question of whether Dylan is being singled out for what has happened in the past rather than being judged solely on Saturday’s game.”
Despite being captain of England, Hartley has one of the worst disciplinary records of any professional player currently playing the game. His career total sanctions sit around 60 weeks.
Hartley’s record, as of two year’s ago
‘RUGBY IS RUGBY’
This incident, however, seems to have been blown out of proportion. When asked if it should have been a sending off, opposition hooker Benjamin Kayser said:
“Red? No come on. Rugby is rugby. If you start by saying that any hit on the head is a red card then there is going to be 25 red cards a game.
“I think it has to be sanctioned because obviously a penalty is a penalty and if he deserved a yellow it is a yellow. But I think we need to keep on working in a positive and constructive way.
“The last thing that we want is to go out and start playing on the rules and to start saying ‘it was a cheap shot’. We are not football. We are just here to play hard and to keep on going. I don’t think it was a red card, just a yellow.
“It is a game where we are lucky enough where we can actually speak to the refs and can actually have decent relations and exchange with one another. There is nothing better than a ref turning around and maybe ask the opposition captain: ‘do you really think he deserved red?’ Most of the guys would be like ‘listen, it is nothing.’ We are not idiots and we are not cheats.”
After coming back on the field, Hartley received a cheapshot from Slimani, seemingly as some form of retribution for what had happened earlier. He too received his marching orders.