Dylan Hartley sent off for striking Sean O'Brien

Dylan Hartley sent off for striking Sean O'Brien
Northampton Saints' Dylan Hartley is shown a red card by referee Jerome Garces at Franklin's Gardens. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

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.

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.

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…

Either way, it’ll be a few months before we all find out.

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