England drop Dylan Hartley after headbutting ban
Dylan Hartley is set to miss the World Cup after being dropped from England's training squad for disciplinary reasons, head coach Stuart Lancaster has announced.
The Northampton hooker was ruled out of the three warm-up games and tournament opener against Fiji on September 18 after being banned for four weeks for head-butting Saracens' Jamie George on Saturday.
"We are obviously very disappointed with the situation that Dylan has put himself in and where that leaves us as a squad. I have spoken to him and he knows he has let himself and everyone down," Lancaster said.
Hartley's World Cup absence will prove another major blow to Lancaster, coming just two weeks after the no-nonsense England boss banned Manu Tuilagi until January.
Lancaster omitted Leicester centre Tuilagi immediately after his conviction for assaulting two female police officers came to light.
Now the former Leeds coach has upheld his strict discipline policy, in following suit with removing Hartley from his ranks.
Hartley's four-week ban will start from England's August warm-up matches and run across their World Cup opener, against Fiji at Twickenham on September 18.
Lancaster has deliberated his options since Hartley's Wednesday night ban, and has decided retaining Hartley would be too great a risk.
Saracens' Jamie George - the man Hartley headbutted for his latest ban - could be the hooker to step into the England squad in his stead.
England are expected to reserve the right to bring Hartley back into their squad should they face an injury crisis at hooker further into the World Cup.
That prospect seems unlikely however, and today Hartley is facing up to the fact that he will now effectively have sat out both a British and Irish Lions tour and a World Cup through suspension.
Hartley accepted the charge of headbutting front-rower George in the second-half of the 29-24 play-off defeat to Saracens at a disciplinary hearing in Coventry on Wednesday night.
The three-man panel, chaired by Sean Enright, ruled the offence at the low-end of the suspension spectrum, and awarded a four-week lay-off.
Hartley's latest ban adds to a rap-sheet including swearing at referee Wayne Barnes - that put paid to his 2013 Lions tour - biting, eye-gouging, elbowing and punching.
England had stood by Hartley during the RBS 6 Nations after his three-week ban for elbowing Leicester's Matt Smith, but he now seems to have run out of chances with Lancaster.