Dylan Hartley will not go on the British & Irish Lions to Australia after he was sent off during the Aviva Premiership Final for allegedly calling referee Wayne Barnes a ‘f*cking cheat’. He has the right to appeal the 11 week ban handed out to him.
It was a dramatic and confusing end to the first half at Twickenham, as Stephen Myler kicked the ball out on the full after misunderstanding what Barnes had actually said.
A few minutes prior Hartley had been spoken to for the way he addressed the referee, and from the ensuing scrum after Myler’s mistake, the Northampton Saints hooker allegedly swore at Barnes.
Coach Jim Mallinder said that the 27-year-old Saints hooker was directing his jibe towards Tigers hooker Tom Youngs, after a penalty was awarded to Leicester at the scrum.
“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,” explained Mallinder.
“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.”
A three man disciplinary-panel ruled that Hartley was guilty of a mid-range offence.
Judge Jeff Blackett said: “We cannot get around the fact that Wayne Barnes was certain that Mr Hartley’s comments were directed at him. Wayne Barnes said that if he had had any doubt in his mind, then he would have given the player the benefit of the doubt.
“In terms of sanction, calling a referee a cheat is an attack on his integrity and contrary to the core values of rugby and therefore we have taken a serious view and provided a serious sanction.”
Hartley pleaded not guilty and has the right to appeal, but Rory Best has been called up. “Despite the circumstances we should congratulate Rory, who will join the squad tomorrow and fly with us to Hong Kong,” said Lions tour manager Andy Irvine.
The Tigers went on to win 37-17 despite a valiant fight back from fourteen-man Saints.
UPDATE: The video below is now updated to include a close up slow-mo replay of the incident