Hartley set to discover punishment with Six Nations opener in the balance

Hartley set to discover punishment with Six Nations opener in the balance

Dylan Hartley will discover this afternoon whether he will be available to lead England into next year's RBS 6 Nations.

Hartley appears before an independent disciplinary hearing in London to learn the length of the suspension he must serve after being sent off for landing a swinging arm on the head of Sean O'Brien in Northampton's defeat by Leinster on Friday night.

The 30-year-old has been charged with striking, entailing a five-week suspension for a mid-range offence and eight weeks if the infringement is considered high-end.

Should he receive the higher level of sanction, Hartley will be unavailable when France visit Twickenham on February 4.

Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie points to Hartley's leadership during this year's unblemished run of 13 successive Test victories to explain why he will remain captain regardless of the outcome of the hearing

"I think Dylan's got credit in the bank," Ritchie told BBC Sport.

"I think most people would say it's been a fantastic year. We've had 13 wins out of 13 and Dylan has made a huge contribution and he should be allowed to continue that.

"Dylan has clearly played a fantastic part in captaining the team, on and off the pitch just to be clear. His leadership credentials are very strong. He's made a huge contribution.

"So you view all these things in perspective and in perspective one looks at the totality of what he's done and what's happened over the years. I think we should be supportive of that."

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