Six-week ban gives Hartley all clear for Six Nations
England captain Dylan Hartley has been handed a six-week ban for striking Sean O'Brien during Northampton Saints' Champions Cup loss to Leinster last Friday.
The 30-year-old was shown the third red card of his career just six minutes after coming on against Leinster as he caught the Irishman with a swinging arm to the face.
Hartley remains available for February's Six Nations opener against France as England look to defend their title.
The hooker pleaded guilty to the charge at an independent disciplinary hearing in London yesterday and will be able to play again from 23 January.
Due to Hartley's poor disciplinary record, an extra week was added to the original five-week suspension.
Hartley has now been suspended for a total of 60 weeks. Despite his latest disciplinary infraction, the Rugby Football Union said he had the full backing of Twickenham and head coach Eddie Jones.
"I think Dylan's got credit in the bank," RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie said. "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. His leadership credentials are very strong."
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Hartley missed the Lions tour to Australia in 2013 due to suspension and was omitted from the England squad for last year's World Cup because of a ban for head-butting.
He is among the leading candidates to captain the Lions on next year's tour of New Zealand, along with Ireland hooker Rory Best and Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones, though this suspension could hinder his cause. (© Independent News Service)