He has been widely touted as a potential Lions captain, but question marks over Dylan Hartley’s discipline have resurfaced tonight, writes Stephen Barry.
Hartley was sent off six minutes after being introduced as a substitute in Northampton’s Champions Cup game against Leinster for a swinging arm to the head of Sean O’Brien.
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) December 9, 2016
That left the Saints a man down as Leinster went on to secure a bonus point victory.
Lions boss Warren Gatland has seen the winning environment of the England team as strengthening Hartley’s case, but his discipline was also referenced in interviews.
“Dylan has obviously matured and he’s done a great job with England. Eddie rates him incredibly highly and he has a lot of respect from the players as well,” Gatland said in September.
“He hasn’t been suspended for a while, either, so that’s another big tick against his name. Hopefully he’ll continue in that vein.”
The immediate reaction on Twitter questioned whether his hopes for the Lions captaincy had just evaporated.
Absolutely, unequivocally, certainly, definitely, unquestionably and definitively NOT a Lions capt - ever.— Ryle Nugent (@ryle_nugent) December 9, 2016
If Hartley ends up as Lions captain, you'd nearly support the All Blacks— Will O'Callaghan (@willocallaghan) December 9, 2016
The all-new, reformed, Mr nice guy England captain Dylan Hartley right there. Good man— Hugh Cahill (@hughcahill7) December 9, 2016
Exclusive footage of Dylan Hartley saying goodbye to his chance of going on the Lions tour pic.twitter.com/9anEE6RbFP— Gareth Hopkins 🏴 🇪🇺 (@GarHop78) December 9, 2016
I'd say no way can Hartley be Lions capt now but not long ago I said no way could Trump be President. #NORvLEIN— Harpin' On Rugby 🏉 (@HarpinOnRugby) December 9, 2016
This week, Gatland told the media that “the captain will probably be someone who is doing the role at the moment”. That would leave Rory Best and Sam Warburton as the likely alternatives.
Irish supporters had a clear favourite…
Dylan Hartley sent off? Never? Rory Best a step closer to Lions captaincy.— David Young (@DavidYoungPA) December 9, 2016
— Damien O'Meara (@damien_omeara) December 9, 2016
Dylan Hartley is after given Rory best a massive boost towards landing the Lions captaincy. Good lad Hartley #NORvLEI— Rory's Stories (@RorysStories) December 9, 2016
Either way, it’ll be a few months before we all find out.