Joe Schmidt has a saying: 'You are what you repeatedly do'.
It is true, and it does not reflect well on England captain Dylan Hartley, who picked up yet another red card in last night's Champions Cup tie between Leinster and Northampton. Hartley was on the field just eight minutes when he smashed the back of Sean O'Brien's head with his forearm.
We've yet to hear of the length of Hartley' suspension, but it will likely be in the region of eight weeks, meaning he is in serious danger of missing out on the Six Nations.
While you responded with your acerbic tweets, the British press had to pick over the bones of yet another moment of madness by Hartley, which puts his Lions captaincy in doubt.
The Guardian's Robert Kitson ponders the implications for the Lions tour, along with the possibility that he won't feature in next year's Six Nations.
One crude swinging arm is in danger of costing Dylan Hartley his immediate future as the England captain and any chance he had of leading the British & Irish Lions to New Zealand next summer. Hartley could hardly have chosen a worse evening to revert from Saint to sinner, his deserved 58th-minute red card which was witnessed by Eddie Jones and his predecessor Stuart Lancaster, now a member of Leinster’s management,
The hooker, widely hailed as a key influence in England’s unbeaten calendar year, had been on the field for six minutes when he was dismissed by the French referee Jérôme Garcès, having stiff-armed the Ireland back-row Sean O’Brien from behind. With a bonus-point defeat leaving Northampton rooted to the foot of their European pool, Hartley’s latest indiscretion not only left his club in the lurch but instantly shredded his growing reputation as a reformed character.
Paul Bolton of The Telegraph shared similar sentiments:
Hartley’s dismissal came in front of England coaches past and present in Stuart Lancaster and Eddie Jones. Lancaster, now Leinster’s assistant coach, left Hartley out of his squad for that tournament after he was banned for head-butting Saracens hooker Jamie George.
Jones ignored Hartley’s poor disciplinary record when appointed the hooker England captain in January but his history may count against him when this case is heard.
Hartley’s sending-off sealed a dreadful week for Northampton which had been dominated by the investigation into their handling of George North’s head injury at Leicester last Saturday.
The Daily Mail's Rory Keane outlined Hartley's absurdly long rap sheet:
Hartley is likely to receive a six-week ban, which would expire only a fortnight before England host France on February 4. But as he has already served a total of 54 weeks in accumulated bans throughout his controversial career, there is a chance he could be sidelined for longer and miss the start of the tournament.
And writing in today's Irish Times, Gerry Thornley recalls the incident:
Audible gasps having been the reaction to the first replay on the big screen, when Jerome Garces declared a "clear swinging arm into the head, red card", there was not one dissenting boo even in Franklin's Gardens.
The ramifications on the night and in the long-term were and will be huge. The home crowd and team numbed, Leinster went on to score three more tries for a handsome bonus point which leaves them in charge of this pool. Given a rap sheet which has accumulated 54 weeks in bans, not only will a lengthy ban seriously endanger his English captaincy but his candidacy to lead the Lions in the nation of his birth.