England captain Dylan Hartley has been banned for six weeks for striking Sean O’Brien during Northampton’s defeat against Leinster, Champions Cup organisers have announced.
It means Hartley will be available for all of the RBS Six Nations.
Hartley was sent off by referee Jerome Garces of France in the 58th minute of the match in contravention of Law 10.4 (a).
An independent disciplinary committee consisting of Simon Thomas (Wales), Rhian Williams (Wales) and Marco Cordelli (Italy) heard submissions from Hartley, who pleaded guilty to the offence, as well as from the player’s legal representative, Richard Smith QC, and the Northampton Saints team manager, Paul Shields. The committee also heard evidence and submissions from the EPCR disciplinary officer, Liam McTiernan.
In upholding the red card decision, the committee found that the offence was at the mid-range of World Rugby’s sanctions and selected five weeks as the appropriate entry point.
Taking into account Hartley’s poor disciplinary record, the committee added two weeks to the sanction and then reduced the sanction by one week due to the player’s guilty plea before imposing a suspension of six weeks.
He will be free to play from 23 January. England open their Six Nations campaign at home to France on 4 February. They play Scotland at Twickenham on 11 March.