Former England and World Cup winning head coach Sir Clive Woodward has waded into the furore over the latest indiscretion and citing of England captain Dylan Hartley.
The Northampton Saints star was given a straight red card last weekend for his challenge on Leinster’s Sean O’Brien during their Champion Cup contest and now looks set for another lengthy spell in the bold corner, one that might see him miss out on the early stages of the Six Nations.
Speculation is now rife over whether the 30-year-old deserves to retain his captaincy of England and also whether he ought to be ruled out as a potential candidate for soon to be chosen Lions captain.
Having already been banned for some 54 weeks in his career, there are not many who have come to Hartley’s defence following his most recent brush with the citing commission. Woodward, one of the few exceptions, has taken a somewhat more lenient view of Hartley and his future options.
Writing in his column for the Daily Mail, the 2003 World Cup winning coach states,
“If Hartley receives a suspension, it absolutely should not deprive him of either the England captaincy or see him drop out as a candidate to skipper the Lions.”
He went on to claim that Hartley’s red card was due to bias against the player, based on his past disciplinary record.
“It was a yellow card, possibly a red, but it was not a hanging offence. If it had involved any other player, without the hype and record of previous misdemeanours, the sending-off might be considered penalty enough, or at most a couple of weeks’ ban.
“It looked like he wanted to tackle Sean O’Brien — very hard — legally at torso height.
“His arm was out because he was actually looking to make a legal tackle and wrap one arm around his opponent as the law requires.
“It would have been a shuddering collision but not illegal.”
Since the citing commission chose to make a case against the England captain and will likely hand down yet another sanction, it would seem that Woodward’s comments are at odds with the rest of the rugby establishment and quite frankly, sound more than a little ridiculous when you review the footage of the incident.
What do you think?
Video Credit: Aotearoa Archived
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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