Lions 2013: Dylan Hartley set to miss tour after sending off
England hooker Dylan Hartley is set to miss the British and Irish Lions tour after becoming the first player to be sent off in a Premiership final.
Northampton's captain swore at referee Wayne Barnes and called him a "cheat" after a penalty decision went against his side in a 37-17 loss to Leicester.
"Dylan Hartley will now have to face an RFU disciplinary hearing. I do not think he will be able to board the plane to Hong Kong with the Lions on Monday. You would think a ban will come. This story is far from over - his Lions place is in real jeopardy."
Hartley, 27, who claims he was talking to Tigers hooker Tom Youngs, will face a disciplinary hearing on Sunday.
The entry point for an RFU ban for abusing an official is six weeks.
The Lions tour runs from 1 June-6 July.
Any potential RFU punishment can be increased or decreased according to the severity of the offence. Although unlikely, it remains possible the dismissal alone could be deemed sufficient punishment.
Hartley had already been warned by Barnes for speaking out of turn, before the dismissal late in the first half.
If Hartley is banned, Ulster and Ireland hooker Rory Best would be favourite to replace him.
A spokesman for the Lions said that if Hartley receives a suspension which was to rule him out of the second match of the tour, against Western Force on 5 June, then he would be replaced in the squad.
"The coaches and the team re-gather on Sunday. There will be an assessment of the situation and it is out of our hands," the spokesman said.
"Warren Gatland has always indicated that these players (competing in Premiership and Pro12 finals) would not play in the first match against the Barbarians but they would have to be available for the second match of the tour.
"That is the criteria for Hartley coming on tour. If he gets a suspension that prevents him from making that second game then that is where we are."
It's Dylan Hartley's own fault. Not only is it half-witted and wrong to talk to a referee like that but he doesn't know the rules of the game. Northampton kicked the ball straight out from a 22-drop-out which is completely stupid. Yes, Leicester pushed early at that scrum and the referee fell for it but Hartley is captain and he let his team down. The referee clearly told him it was his last chance after earlier dissent and has had to follow that through."
Northampton coach Jim Mallinder said Hartley's claim was backed up by a number of other senior players.
"I asked Dylan at half-time and I've just asked him again 'what happened? What did you say?' He said he was talking to Tom Youngs," said Mallinder.
"If you talk like that to a player I wouldn't expect anything to happen. Clearly, Wayne Barnes has believed Dylan has spoken to him.
"I support Dylan. He is my captain. If he says he wasn't speaking to the referee and he was speaking to a player on the floor I can only support what he says."
Gatland's Lions squad board the plane to Hong Kong on Monday ahead of their opening match against the Barbarians on Saturday.
Hartley could have become England captain in 2012 but missed out after being given an eight-week ban for biting Ireland's Stephen Ferris.
He was also given a two-week ban in December 2012 for striking Best.
Those incidents followed a 26-week ban in 2007 for "making illegal contact with the eye area" of Wasps players Johnny O'Connor and James Haskell. That ban ended his chances of making England's squad for the 2007 World Cup.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live as a pundit at Twickenham, former Lions hooker Brian Moore said: "It's Dylan Hartley's own fault.
"Not only is it half-witted and wrong to talk to a referee like that but he doesn't know the rules of the game. Northampton kicked the ball straight out from a 22-drop-out which is completely stupid.
"Yes, Leicester pushed early at that scrum and the referee fell for it but Hartley is captain and he let his team down. The referee clearly told him it was his last chance after earlier dissent and has had to follow that through."