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Hartley ban will be crucial factor in battle with Best to lead Lions

By Jonathan Bradley

The RFU have leapt to the defence of England captain Dylan Hartley who will find out the extent of his latest ban today.

Hartley, who has spent 54 weeks of his career suspended, was sent off for a swinging arm against Leinster on Friday, a transgression that appears to have handed Ulsterman Rory Best the advantage in the race to be Lions skipper next summer.

“Dylan has clearly played a fantastic part in captaining the team, on and off the pitch,” said Ian Ritchie, the RFU’s chief executive. “His leadership credentials are very strong.

“We’ll see what happens — I’m not going to talk about the disciplinary process as you know. That will take its course and we’ll see what happens.

“If he’s eligible for selection (for the Six Nations), it’s ultimately a matter for Eddie Jones, but we should recognise and support all that Dylan has done in the last 12 months.

“It is primarily a matter for Eddie and if you look back over it, Eddie’s judgement has been really good.

“We should recognise that.”

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