Hartley hearing set for Tuesday
England and Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley's latest Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing will take place in London on Tuesday.
Northampton look set to mount a robust defence of their captain after he was sent off for elbowing Leicester centre Matt Smith in the face at Franklin's Gardens two days ago.
Hartley could miss at least the start of England's RBS 6 Nations campaign following the latest episode in a career scarred by repeated disciplinary episodes.
In a statement, the RFU said: "Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints) will have his case heard by an RFU disciplinary judicial officer on Tuesday, December 23.
"Hartley was sent off in the Aviva Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers for striking Matt Smith with his elbow, contrary to Law 10.4(a).
"The case will be heard tomorrow evening in London by Jeremy Summers sitting as a sole judicial officer at a time to be confirmed."
Hartley was handed a 26-week ban for eye-gouging in 2007, and an 11-week suspension for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes during the 2013 Aviva Premiership final against Leicester.
That latter ban led to him missing the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia, and the RFU could easily take a dim view of his latest indiscretion.
It happened after just 17 minutes of a titanic east midlands derby that Northampton won 23-19.
Referee J P Doyle initially seemed happy to award Hartley a yellow card, but television match official Sean Davey urged Doyle to watch further replays, and he responded by sending 61 times-capped Hartley off.
"It was disappointing," Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder said, speaking directly after the game.
"Dylan has got to keep his arms down, but he was being held and I don't know there was any malice in it.
"The nature of the game didn't justify a red card. I think Smith went down pretty easily, to be honest, which was disappointing.
"It is a tough game. That 80 minutes of rugby was hard, physical with some great tackles, but I don't think there was any malice in that. I think JP's initial reaction of the yellow card would have been the correct decision."
England open their Six Nations campaign against Wales in Cardiff on February 6, and given Hartley's poor record - biting and punching offences also appear on his charge-sheet - another lengthy suspension appears likely.
"It's a tough game, and Dylan plays to the edge. You wouldn't change Dylan. He is competitive," Mallinder added.
"It is a difficult one. I think he should have kept his arms down - we are not saying that what he did was right - but what I am probably saying is that the opposition made it a lot easier, and a yellow card was sufficient."