Northampton captain Dylan Hartley has received a two-week ban after being cited for foul play in a Heineken Cup game.
The England international hooker was reported for striking his opposite number Rory Best during last Friday’s Pool Four encounter at Franklin’s Gardens.
Hartley will miss tomorrow’s return fixture at Ravenhill, plus Northampton’s Aviva Premiership appointment at home to Harlequins on December 22.
In a statement, European Rugby Cup said Hartley pleaded guilty to the offence.
Welshman Roger Morris, an independent judicial officer, heard evidence and submissions by video conference from Hartley and his legal representative, in addition to ERC disciplinary officer Roger O’Connor.
ERC said that in upholding the citing and employing the IRB recommended sanctions, the offence was at the low-end entry point of two weeks.
“When considering relevant aggravating factors, the judicial officer added one week for the player’s disciplinary record and then subsequently reduced the suspension by one week for the player’s conduct during the hearing and guilty plea.”
Saints prop Paul Doran-Jones says his side will be looking for redemption when they travel to face Ulster at Ravenhill. Ulster took complete control of Pool Four with the hugely impressive 25-6 victory at Franklin’s Gardens last Friday. The result was a huge disappointment to the hosts, who had genuine hopes of reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.
But although Doran-Jones insists his side’s position is not “terminal”, he does admit the Saints need a huge improvement at Ravenhill to halt Ulster’s 13-match winning run.
“It is a chance for us to redeem ourselves,” said the England international. “We are still confident. It’s another game of rugby against the same side and that is what is encouraging about it as we get to play the same team again.
“It will be tough at Ravenhill and it will be a hostile environment. They don’t make it very nice for you and the conditions might come into it. I don’t think it’s terminal yet, in terms of our Heineken Cup hopes. We have three games left and they are all tough, but we just have to produce our best and hope that it’s enough.
“We have looked at our performance from last week and reviewed it. We were massively disappointed. We went into the game with big hopes but got caught cold.
“They showed us a great example of how to play away in European rugby. It was a baptism of fire.
“They were Heineken Cup finalists last season and it will be tough this week.
“They did well last week as they executed their moves and scored when they could, but now we have to make sure we impose ourselves and get our game plan going.”
Doran-Jones paid tribute to Ulster for their record-breaking run of form.
“I thought they were a very, very solid team all the way through, including the lads that came on,” he said.
“They have a great blend of experience and youthful exuberance. They are a bunch of lads that seem to be really together and you could see that throughout, with the way they conducted themselves.
“They are a good side and one you want to be playing against. That’s the great thing about the Heineken Cup, and we really want to compete.
“All the Irish provinces are playing some good stuff, and we know it’s going to be a difficult game for us.”
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