Dylan Hartley: Lions hooker misses tour after 11-week ban

Wayne Barnes, Dylan Hartley

England hooker Dylan Hartley will miss the British and Irish Lions tour after being suspended for 11 weeks for

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced the ban after finding the Northampton captain swore at referee Wayne Barnes and called him a "cheat".

Hartley denied the charge and can appeal but Rory Best has replaced him.

The Lions tour starts on 1 June and Hartley is banned until 1 September.

A Lions statement said: "The British and Irish Lions have been informed of the sanction imposed on Dylan Hartley by an RFU disciplinary panel.

"Warren Gatland and his fellow coaches will now consider all their options before making any further announcement."

Ulster and Ireland hooker Rory Best was called up on Sunday

Gatland's Lions squad board the plane to Hong Kong on Monday ahead of their opening match against the Barbarians on Saturday.

An RFU statement said: "At the hearing Dylan Hartley pleaded not guilty but the panel found him guilty and determined that this was mid-range on the scale of seriousness.

"The entry point for mid-range is a suspension of 12 weeks and that was reduced by one week to reflect his good conduct at the hearing."

Hartley, 27, claims he was talking to Tigers hooker Tom Youngs and not referee Barnes.

Hartley had already been warned by Barnes for speaking out of turn, before the dismissal late in the first half of Leicester's 37-17 win at Twickenham.

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."

Hartley could have 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 that year's World Cup.

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