Dylan Hartley to keep Northampton Saints captaincy

Dylan Hartley

England hooker Dylan Hartley will retain the Northampton Saints captaincy this season.

The 27-year-old was sent off last term and was later for swearing at the referee and calling him a cheat.

It followed a number of disciplinary issues over the past six years.

"He has learned from what happened at Twickenham and knows what is expected of him in the coming season," said Saints boss Jim Mallinder.

"Of course we're aware that the events of May's Aviva Premiership final will mean that there will be a lot of attention on Dylan this season.

"We certainly believe that he has the temperament to do well under the pressure, and will continue to improve as a player and as a leader.

"Dylan has matured a great deal over the past few years and is now an excellent club captain."

Hartley's first-half sending off against Leicester in last season's final contributed to a 37-17 defeat, but his subsequent 11-week ban from the Rugby Football Union also cost him his place in the British & Irish Lions squad for the summer tour of Australia.

The forward denied aiming his abusive language and claim of cheating at referee Wayne Barnes, but the RFU deemed him guilty.

Hartley's influence and talent on the pitch have rarely been questioned, having made 171 Saints appearances and skippered the side to a Heineken Cup final and Premiership final.

But the 47-time England cap's temper and discipline have caused concerns.

Hartley could have become England captain in 2012 but missed out after being given an

He was also given

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.