Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Gatland: Hartley made poor judgement

Dylan Hartley, right, is not expected to appeal against his 11-week ban

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland admits that Dylan Hartley had "gone to the edge of the cliff and jumped off" in response to his 11-week ban for abusing referee Wayne Barnes.

Hartley called Barnes a "f****** cheat" during Northampton's Aviva Premiership final defeat by Leicester at Twickenham on Saturday and he has been replaced by Ireland's Rory Best in the 37-man squad for the tour of Hong Kong and Australia.

"Dylan's a young man who has made an unfortunate error," said Gatland at Monday's departure press conference in Kensington. "To play the game you have to play on the edge, but unfortunately he's gone to the edge of the cliff and jumped off it. That's the only analogy I can draw."

He added: "I called him yesterday and left a message on his phone. He left a message on my phone today thanking me for the call.

"I was looking forward to working with him and really feel for him. He's made a poor judgement. Hopefully he can put this behind him and move on.

"It's my understanding that he won't be appealing the decision, but that's entirely up to him. He may decide to do that in the next day or so."

Many felt that Best, who has been capped 67 times, should have been selected ahead of Hartley in the original squad announced last month and Gatland agrees that it was a difficult call.

"That decision had been going through my head as well," he said.

"I have no problem admitting that post-selection I had that discussion with myself and said 'Did I make the right call?' Everything that's been written and people saying how unlucky he's been is 100% correct because I had those doubts initially myself.

"When we made the selection, the debate on hooker took by far the longest on and was he really unlucky. As soon as Dylan was ruled out he was the obvious choice, it was not even something we had to talk about."

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