England hooker Dylan Hartley has reminded Twitter trolls that even “big, burly rugby players” have feelings.
Hartley was targeted on social media after a yellow card for stamping in the 31-28 defeat by South Africa a fortnight ago, an act that resulted in his demotion to the bench for the subsequent victory over Samoa.
Among the insults were “coward” and “scumbag” and the Northampton hooker retweeted a selection of the less offensive messages to draw attention to the abuse he had received.
Hartley is delighted to have been restored to the starting XV for Saturday’s climax to the QBE Series against Australia, but the hostility has left a bad taste.He said: “I got sick of what was being said because I get quite a bit of that on a regular basis and I wanted to highlight that it’s going on. People shouldn’t accept it.
“I wasn’t upset or drunk, I just thought it was the best way for some people to see what they write. Hopefully, I made some people realise that.
“Then I get some people who say ‘Thanks for the retweet, glad you’ve learned your lesson – #rugby family’. Who are these people?
“Just because Jess Ennis-Hill is a pretty young lady who you shouldn’t bully, well you shouldn’t do it to anyone. Just because I’m a big, burly rugby player – I have feelings too.”
Hartley regrets the incident that resulted in a yellow card, but views his action in stepping on Springboks No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who was using his body to interfere with play, as over-zealous rucking rather than an outright stamp. England’s most experienced player with 60 caps has a lengthy rap sheet totalling 48 weeks in suspensions and, while his most recent misdemeanour was only minor, another significant disciplinary lapse would place his international career in doubt.
Hartley tapped Vermeulen before bringing his boot down and said: “It was stupid, but it wasn’t like the previous. It wasn’t crazy. I knew what I was doing.
“I made a point of tapping him before I did it. I didn’t go for a knee, I went for a fleshy part!
“Bloody slow motion cameras! But I now know the rules. You can’t do that in international rugby.”
England: M Brown (Harlequins); A Watson (Bath), B Barritt (Saracens), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), J May (Gloucester); G Ford (Bath), B Youngs (Leicester); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Bath), D Attwood (Bath), C Lawes (Northampton), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Gloucester). Replacements: R Webber (Bath), M Mullan (Wasps), K Brookes (Newcastle), G Kruis (Saracens), J Haskell (Wasps), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), O Farrell (Saracens), M Yarde (Harlequins).
Australia: I Folau; H Speight, A Ashley-Cooper, M Toomua, R Horne; B Foley, N Phipps; J Slipper, S Fainga’a, S Kepu, S Carter, R Simmons, S McMahon, M Hooper (capt), B McCalman. Replacements: J Hanson, B Robinson, B Alexander, W Skelton, L Jones, N White, Q Cooper, K Beale.