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Red card heartache over for Hartley

Dylan Hartley will join England's tour of New Zealand with 12 months' of Aviva Premiership final red card trauma at an end, according to Tom Wood.

Northampton's club captain returned from two months of shoulder trouble for the Saints' extra-time 24-20 Premiership final victory over Saracens at Twickenham on Saturday.

Hartley will lead the glut of Premiership finalists heading out to New Zealand on Monday, with Saracens duo Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola easing off knocks to make the plane too.

The 28-year-old was sent off in last season's 37-17 Premiership final defeat to Leicester Tigers, costing him his place on the summer's British and Irish Lions tour.

England flanker Tom Wood hailed Hartley's resolve for exorcising last season's bad memories as Northampton claimed their first-ever Premiership title, a week after scooping the Amlin Challenge Cup crown.

"It's fantastic for Dylan to have achieved this after last year, everyone is delighted for him," said Wood.

"This time last year we were so disappointed, and no one took it harder than Dylan.

"But he's been the life and soul of our group, never let it beat him, and now he's come back to pull this off, and he can move forward.

"He's got last year off his back now."

Saracens fly-half Farrell suffered cramp with number eight Vunipola taking an ankle knock.

Rugby director Mark McCall expected both to be on England's flight to New Zealand on Monday, with Stuart Lancaster hoping for a clean bill of health from the Premiership showdown.

"Billy took a bang on his ankle, but he's just one of a number of the group who soldiered on, it's nothing serious," said McCall.

"Owen just had cramp so he should be fine too."

England start their three-Test series against New Zealand in Auckland on Saturday, shorn of their Premiership finalists.

Mako Vunipola's surgery to repair the dislocated patella in his right knee has exacerbated England's front-row resources for the tour.

Joe Marler is battling a hip complaint, so Nathan Catt joined the tour.

Wasps' Matt Mullan is expected to start the first Test should Marler not recover in time.

While Hartley will join England in New Zealand, team-mate Alex Corbisiero has been handed the summer off to recover fully from long-term knee trouble.

Leicester Tigers hooker Tom Youngs has been handed compassionate leave while his wife receives treatment for an illness.


From Belfast Telegraph