Dylan Hartley to discover "biting" disciplinary verdict

Hartley faces anxious wait over 'biting' probe with hooker set to learn verdict

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UPDATED:

15:36 GMT, 26 March 2012

England hooker Dylan Hartley will find out on Tuesday whether he faces the second major suspension of his professional career after being cited for allegedly biting an opponent.

The 26-year-old Northampton captain, who has won 39 caps for his country, faces a disciplinary hearing after being accused of biting the finger of Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris during England's 30-9 RBS 6 Nations victory on March 17.

The offence carries a low-end entry point of a 12-week suspension, which would put Hartley's participation in England's summer tour in doubt.

Incident: The moment Northampton Saints and England hooker Dylan Hartley allegedly bit Ireland's Stephen Ferris

Incident: The moment Northampton Saints and England hooker Dylan Hartley allegedly bit Ireland's Stephen Ferris

The mid-range punishment for biting
is 18 weeks while there is a ban of 24-plus weeks at the top end in the
International Rugby Board's disciplinary sanctions table.

The maximum sanction is a four-year punishment.

Hartley, who was born in New Zealand
but qualified for red rose duty through his English-born mother, served a
26-week ban for gouging in 2007 after being cited for making contact
with the eye areas of Wasps players Jonny O'Connor, James Haskell and
Joe Worsley during a Premiership fixture.

Hartley pleaded not guilty on all
three counts, but a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel found him
guilty in relation to the offences against Haskell and O'Connor, but he
was cleared on the Worsley charge.

The incident with Ferris occurred
during the 28th minute of England's comfortable Twickenham win, which
saw them secure second place in the Six Nations table after an
encouraging campaign under interim coach Stuart Lancaster.

Television footage did not capture
the alleged incident but Ferris and some of his team-mates complained to
Welsh referee Nigel Owens in the immediate aftermath.

Owens said he had not seen anything
but told captains Chris Robshaw and Rory Best: 'I have an accusation of
biting, a clear mark on the finger.

In the thick of it: Hartley in action for England during this year's RBS Six Nations match against Ireland

In the thick of it: Hartley in action for England during this year's RBS Six Nations match against Ireland

'I did not see something. If I do it will be dealt with severely, which would be a red card.

'It could be dealt with afterwards. If it is seen it will be dealt with. I did not see it.

'Have a word. Nothing like that takes place in this game. I can only deal with what I see. Have a word please.

'I have had a look. Unless I can see it, it's been dealt with, okay'

Owens then spoke to Ferris while the
Ulster forward received treatment, saying: 'I have done all I can. It
has been noted. If I don't see it I can't do nothing about it. It has
been spoken about and dealt with.'

Luke Benedict

The charge of an act 'contrary to
good sportsmanship' against Hartley was brought by the Italian citing
commissioner Alberto Recaldini after reviewing footage.

But Recaldini incorrectly documented
that the incident took place in the 23rd minute, when it fact it
occurred in the 28th minute.

It is understood that Recaldini has acknowledged the mistake in his report.

The chances of Hartley's legal team
successfully using the mistake as a loophole to have the case dismissed
have reduced significantly following an incident on England's tour to
Australia in 2010.

On that occasion lock Dave Attwood
was cited for incidents of alleged stamping in a game against the
Australian Barbarians, but he was cleared without a hearing as the
citing commissioner was Australian, and therefore deemed to not be
independent.

A clause is now in place under the
International Rugby Board's regulation 17 that allows the chairman of a
disciplinary committee to note an inaccuracy of that nature, but to
still proceed to dealing with the alleged act of foul play.