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Lancaster: Hartley too big a risk

Published 29/05/2015

England head coach Stuart Lancaster, pictured, has run out of patience with Dylan Hartley
England head coach Stuart Lancaster, pictured, has run out of patience with Dylan Hartley

Stuart Lancaster removed Dylan Hartley from his World Cup plans after losing patience with the England hooker's inability to address his self-destructive streak.

Hartley is unavailable for the tournament opener against Fiji on September 18 after receiving a four-week ban for head-butting Jamie George during Northampton's Aviva Premiership play-off defeat by Saracens last Saturday.

The 29-year-old's career has been blighted by a total of 54 weeks of suspension and Lancaster admits his latest disciplinary lapse left him with no choice but to drop a player who has repeatedly displayed a suspect temperament when the pressure is on.

"Clearly there comes a point when you think, actually, this message isn't really getting through. Dylan is going to suffer a huge price now," Lancaster said.

"He has got two or three years left at least at the highest level. It is down to him to prove he can control his emotions in those big moments because you have to have it as an elite player.

"You have to be able to play in big games where big decisions matter and emotions are running high and you have to be able to control them. If Northampton had made the final he would have missed the final.

"Can he make the good decisions under pressure in the big moments? You've got to trust that the players can do that. He's shown that there's an inconsistency there."

George has actually profited from the unprovoked assault at Franklin's Gardens by taking Hartley's place in the 50-strong World Cup training squad. Undisputed first choice in the position, however, is Tom Youngs of Leicester.

"We've got a 100 per cent confidence, faith and trust in Tom as a player and as a leader," Lancaster said.

"He was the starting hooker in two British and Irish Lions Tests. He's a character, Tom, who you can build a pack around, and he's highly respected by his team-mates, myself and the coaches."

Meanwhile, Lancaster insists he was unaware David Strettle is considering a move to French club Clermont when picking the Saracens wing in his training squad for the World Cup.

England have refused to select from the Top 14 and Lancaster admits that had he known of Strettle's potential transfer, he may have chosen differently. Wasps wing Christian Wade was unlucky not to make the 50.

"I've not spoken to the club or David. He's been selected on merit because he's an English player, in England who's playing well," Lancaster said.

"Potentially (it would have affected selection) - on the 50-50s. But we'll see how it plays out. The wing spot is a very competitive position."

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