Mallinder slams system after Hartley's 'unjustified' hearing
Rugby's judiciary has been accused of victimising Dylan Hartley after the England captain was cleared for next month's November series at Twickenham.
Hartley's citing for striking Clermont prop Rabah Slimani during Northampton's 24-7 Champions Cup defeat on Saturday was dismissed after an independent disciplinary hearing decided the offence was unworthy of a red card.
England received worse news concerning Joe Marler, who is to miss the Tests against Argentina and Australia after receiving a three-week suspension for striking with the arm, but can at least prepare for the series that begins on November 11 knowing Hartley will be at the helm.
Although the offence was deemed minor, Hartley's dismal disciplinary record that has robbed him of 60 weeks of his career threatened to increase any sanction given and potentially render him unavailable.
Jim Mallinder, Northampton's director of rugby, insists it is the extensive list of disciplinary lapses that include biting, gouging and headbutting that meant the 31-year-old was subjected to an "unjustified" hearing in London.
"The decision to cite Dylan from Saturday's game against Clermont was unjustified. This was a run-of-the-mill rugby incident during a high-intensity game of European rugby," Mallinder said.
"Anyone who watched the game could see that this was completely accidental - a misjudgement at a clear-out, plain and simple.
"When we should be preparing for a crucial league game against Wasps this Saturday, we have instead been distracted by what we believe was an unwarranted judicial hearing.
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"Citings like this do beg the question of whether Dylan is being singled out for what has happened in the past rather than being judged solely on Saturday's game."
Argentina, Australia and Samoa visit Twickenham on successive weekends and while the Northampton hooker is under pressure from Jamie George, he is set to be retained in the role.
Eddie Jones will be forced to revise his plans elsewhere in the front-row after Marler was ruled out of all but the climax to the November games having been sent to the sin-bin for a forearm on Will Rowlands in Harlequins' 41-10 defeat by Wasps on Sunday.
The offence was deemed to be mid-range and worthy of a red card, but one week was taken off the original four-week sanction due to the prop's admission of guilt and he can play from November 19.
Jones was considering resting first-choice loosehead Mako Vunipola but with Marler out and rookie Ellis Genge the next in line, he will have to select the Saracen.