Hooker Dylan Hartley will be available for England’s June tour to South Africa after a disciplinary hearing suspended him for eight weeks
Hartley was cited for biting the finger of Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris during England’s Six Nations victory over Ireland at Twickenham.
The Six Nations hearing upheld the citing and issued a ban that means the Northampton skipper will not be able to play until 14 May.
He could, however, return if Saints reach the Premiership final on 26 May and will be eligible to play in the first Test against the Springboks on June 9.
Hartley’s offence was found to have contravened IRB Law 10.4 (m) “acts contrary to good sportsmanship”.
Biting carries a low-end entry point of a 12-week suspension but having examined the evidence and listened to Hartley, his legal representative, Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder, England forwards coach Graham Rowntree and Ferris via a video link, the independent Six Nations committee decided that the offence merited a low entry point in the IRB’s table of sanctions and allowed mitigation of four weeks.
There had been speculation the 39-times capped Hartley could be sidelined for a lot longer than two months, given his 26-week ban for gouging Wasps duo Jonny O’Connor and James Haskell in 2007.
However, it is understood that given the length of time that has passed since the gouging incidents, it was felt the four-week reduction was appropriate.
“I am disappointed by the result and I will wait for the written judgment as to how the panel came to their conclusion,” said Hartley.
“I now have to put it behind me and focus on supporting Saints in training and off the field.”
Rowntree added the England team were looking forward to Hartley being available for the tour to South Africa.
“It is unfortunate for Dylan and Northampton, especially as he was in good form during the Six Nations, and he has developed as a player and a leader,” said Rowntree.