Neil Francis: If Dylan Hartley offends again, his career is over
The future of rugby bad boy Dylan Hartley is untenable should he produce another moment of madness on the pitch, according to Neil Francis.
Irish Independent columnist and former Ireland international Francis has recently spoken out against hothead Hartley and he has again insisted that there can be absolutely no justification for another incident on the pitch from the Englishman.
“He seems to be given an awful lot of latitude. His coach in Northampton seems to stand up for him. Stewart Lancaster also made the point that he talks to him and he has talked to him, I think he has been pretty good the last two matches and I think he has engaged a psychologist to keep him under control,” Francis told Independent.ie.
“It is in tight matches like these when there is a huge amount at stake, there is a fair bit of niggle. I don’t know whether Ireland will go for him, I don’t think they will as there is far more important things than try to rile Dylan Hartly.
“I just think he has been given too many chances at this stage so if he offends again where do we go?
“He is important for England. I think Youngs is a good hooker but I think Hartley is the more complete player, he gives them an edge in every sense. He is a good ball carrier, his darts are good, he has a good strike and he is a physical sort of a guy and there is the psychological element there too, you never know what he is going to do.
“Everybody deserves a second chance but he has had about five or six at this stage and if he does it again, it’s time to finish his career.
“The stakes are huge, he has a World Cup coming up, it’s in England. There is a huge amount at stake for the whole team and for his career and it’s there for him but if he offends again, gone.”
Only last month, Hartley hit back at Francis after the latter slammed the size of the ban dished out for his latest on-field infraction.
Hartley was handed a three-week ban for an elbow on Leicester's Matt Smith during an Aviva Premiership game in December, clearing him to play in the Six Nations.
Francis was unimpressed with the ban considering Hartley's well-documented disciplinary problems.
"The week before Christmas, he smashed Leicester’s Matt Smith in the face with his elbow and, after some obfuscation from referee JP Doyle, Hartley got a straight red," wrote Francis at the time.
"It’s worth having a look online just to see the aesthetic and the force of the blow. When you are online you might as well watch the videos of his eye-gouging, biting, kicking, stamping, punching, blind-siding and calling a referee a “f***ing cheat".
"There is an absolute in sport and it is this: if you cannot play it without illegally injuring your opponents then you should be stopped from playing it.
"I have no respect for Hartley as a player and the way he has conducted himself over his career. He is a vinegar character on the field and his incendiary behaviour should have been halted long ago."
Hartley was unimpressed and took to Twitter to voice his opinion.
“Strong opinions out there today,” tweeted Hartley in response to Francis’ column.
“My downfalls have been on the field for everyone to see. You hide away writing opinion and not fact, never to be held accountable. Snakes.”