Hartley to discover World Cup fate
Dylan Hartley will discover on Wednesday evening if he is still available for England's home World Cup following his latest disciplinary lapse.
Hartley faces a hearing in Coventry after being cited for an unprovoked head-butt on opposite number Jamie George during the second half of Northampton's 29-24 Aviva Premiership semi-final defeat by Saracens.
The entry point sanction for the offence is four weeks, the mid-range 10 weeks and the top end 16-plus weeks. Disciplinary directives state any ban must include matches.
Even the lowest sanction would place Hartley's hopes of appearing at the World Cup in jeopardy.
The 29-year hooker has an appalling record having missed virtually an entire year of his career - 50 weeks - through suspensions incurred for a range of offences including gouging, biting and abusing a referee.
Even the minimum sanction of four weeks would mean he misses all three warm-up games for the World Cup, starting with France's visit to Twickenham on August 15, and given his track record he can expect little leniency from the three-man panel.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster would have to consider the wisdom of picking a player who has been inactive since May in his final 31-man squad for the tournament.
Further muddying the waters is whether Lancaster finally loses patience with his most capped international and opts to send the front row into Red Rose exile.
As recently as December, Hartley was sent off for use of the elbow against Leicester and having served the ensuing three-week ban.
Two years ago, after he had been forced to miss the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia as punishment for abusing referee Wayne Barnes in the Premiership final, Hartley accepted any more indiscretions would be terminal for his England career.
"I understand he (Lancaster) can't keep giving me a chance. People can't keep giving me a chance and I am basically on my last chance in that set-up. That is fully understood," Hartley said.
Lancaster recently adopted a strong disciplinary stance on Manu Tuilagi, suspending the centre until January after he was found guilty by a magistrate's court of assaulting a taxi driver and two female police officers.