Dylan Hartley: Lions coach Warren Gatland coy on captaincy prospects

Dylan Hartley high tackles Sean O'Brien
This Dylan Hartley high tackle on Leinster's Sean O'Brien led to the Northampton hooker's sending off

Warren Gatland says Northampton's Dylan Hartley will be disappointed by his red card against Leinster.

But the British and Irish Lions coach would not confirm if the incident will affect the England captain's chances of leading the 2017 tour in New Zealand.

"For me it's about picking the squad first and looking afterwards ... who can do a good job and in terms of captain," said Gatland.

Hartley finds out on Wednesday if he can lead England in the Six Nations.

The 30-year-old was dismissed six minutes after coming on as Northampton lost to Leinster in the European Champions' Cup on 9 December.

Hartley will appear at an independent hearing on Wednesday to discover the length of the ban to be imposed.

After leading England unbeaten through 2016, Hartley is regarded as one of the prime candidates for the Lions captaincy.

But he has a history of indiscipline and has served a total of 54 weeks suspension in his career.

Gatland, on secondment from his Wales role with the Lions, said: "Dylan will be incredibly disappointed with being sent off last week.

"Look, he's had a great 12 months, done a great job in captaining and leading England and the success that they've had.

"He'll be disappointed and hopefully he reflects on that and takes his punishment and gets back and has a good Six Nations, and for me after that it's just looking at him and first of all is his form good to be selected [for the tour] and then maybe some of the other things come into consideration."

Stuart Lancaster, now part of the Leinster coaching staff, dropped Hartley from England's 2015 World Cup squad after he head-butted Saracens' Jamie George.

But he was reinstated as captain when Eddie Jones succeeded Lancaster and captained them to the 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam.

Gatland said he understands media interest in the Lions captaincy, but says he is a long way from deciding who will lead the Lions on the field.

"Yes it's an important role," he said.

"I don't mind that edge, but it's important they don't cross the line and with someone like Dylan it's been disappointing and hopefully he reflects on what's happened last week.

"I think Dylan will be more concerned about his ban and getting on the field and playing for England than worrying about [next] June.

"Those things will take care of itself in terms of we'll see what happens over the next few months.

"And let's not get too carried away and not make too much of an issue of it and I'll just sit back and see what happens."

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