Red card was a sobering reality check says England captain Dylan Hartley
Dylan Hartley feared he had jeopardised his England captaincy after receiving a third red card of his career that he views as a "sobering" reality check.
Hartley was confirmed as skipper at the official launch of the RBS 6 Nations on Wednesday and attended the event in south London alongside a bruised Eddie Jones, whose left eye was wounded during a fall.
Northampton hooker Hartley was sent off for striking Sean O'Brien during a Champions Cup defeat by Leinster on December 3, an offence that resulted in a six-week suspension which only ended on Monday.
By the time France visit Twickenham for the Six Nations opener on February 4, the 30-year-old will not have played for over two months and his disciplinary record now consists of 60 weeks' worth of bans.
The enforced lay-off has given Hartley time to reflect on an act that he knows placed his position in doubt.
"It is sobering," said Hartley who was speaking for the first time since the incident.
"You realise what is going on and what is at stake. I understood the position that I had put myself and the team in.
"To be sat back within the team is a privileged position and one I don't take for granted. I've got my head down and all I can do is repay that faith with how I play.
"Obviously you reflect on things when things like that happen. This is a privileged position to be in, not just to be sat here as captain, but to be involved with the team.
"I've jeopardised that, put the team and myself in a sticky situation and I've had a clear directive from Eddie and the staff of what they expect."
Hartley struck O'Brien with a swinging arm from behind to end the Leinster flanker's evening as he subsequently failed a head injury assessment
Refusing to view the challenge as the latest example of the red mist that has descended throughout his career, Hartley instead insists it was the result of a technical flaw
"I'm confident it won't happen again because I've worked hard on my tackle technique with (defence coach) Paul Gustard and some of the other staff," he said.
"It is something that I needed to clean up and I've given myself a good chance of not having that same issue again. But it is an ongoing thing - it is something I have to keep working on. The tackle was a technical issue for me."
Hartley was only told he was to continue as captain at the Six Nations launch, according to Jones.
"Well I haven't actually told him yet. Shall I say now? Okay, I'd like to officially announce Dylan's the captain, there you go," Jones said.
"I think he's ready to go. He trained well on Tuesday and has still got a couple of days to go. We're pleased to have him back. It's the continuity of the job."
Jones attended the launch with bruising and bandaging around his left eye, initially joking that it had been sustained while attempting the combat sports England's players have been practising since October before revealing the real explanation.
"First we had judo and then we had MMA, so we're just going through all the martial arts sports to see what effect they have on the body," Jones said.
"I slipped over in the hotel in the morning. My mother always told me I've got to shave and I forgot to shave, I walked out of the shower to get the shaver and this is what happened. I follow what my mother says."