England throw Rugby World Cup lifeline to Dylan Hartley
England forwards coach Graham Rowntree has been in regular contact with Dylan Hartley to ensure he would be ready if needed during the World Cup.
Hartley is serving a four-week suspension for head-butting that expires on September 21, ruling him out of the hosts' tournament opener against Fiji three days earlier.
The 29-year-old was removed from England's training squad as a result, with head coach Stuart Lancaster explaining he wanted a full compliment of hookers available for the entirety of the World Cup, while also referencing his dismal disciplinary record.
It would take an injury to Tom Youngs, Rob Webber or Jamie George for the door to be opened to Hartley and Rowntree has been checking up on the Northampton captain in case that scenario arises.
"We never discount the possibility of Dylan coming in, if required, so long as he has served his ban," Rowntree told Sky Sports News.
"Dylan's fit and I've been in touch with him regularly, so I know where he is and he'd be able to come in and slot in if we needed him."
Hartley has spent his pre-season at Northampton while other players who will not make the 31-man World Cup squad to be announced on Thursday have been present at England's training base in Surrey.
"Why has Dylan not been here? The guys we've had in the last couple of weeks like Tom Croft, Ben Foden and Joe Simpson have not had a lot of game time with us over the last couple of years," Rowntree said.
"Because of that they needed to come in and see how we're doing things. Dylan has had a lot of game time with us and I trust Dylan. Dylan played in our last Six Nations match."
Hartley's reliability at the set-piece - particularly his laser-guided accuracy at the line-out - has been missed by England during their warm-up matches against France.
The line-out was particularly poor in Saturday's 25-20 defeat in Paris when Youngs' throwing was exposed once again while second choice Webber is out of form.
It is against this backdrop that Hartley's absence is becoming more damaging to England's chances of making an impact at the World Cup.
Lancaster stated last week that Hartley would only be involved if injury struck.
"There would have to be an injury. We would go with the three hookers that will go and we will put all our time and effort into them," Lancaster said.
"I'll certainly not be bringing him into camp. I haven't had a conversation with him since the last one."