Rugby

"Never A Red!" - There Is A Very Different Tone To Dylan Hartley Commentary In The UK

"Never A Red!" - There Is A Very Different Tone To Dylan Hartley Commentary In The UK

The tenor of the conversation re Dylan Hartley is very different over the water.

In the Irish press, Neil Francis is talking about lifetime bans. Eddie O'Sullivan said the incident looked "premeditated" to him. Paul Kimmage is telling yarns from 'The Crying Game' to illustrate how this stuff is clearly in Hartley's 'nature'.

Martyn Williams, meanwhile, thinks it was "never a red."

Amidst all the thunder and fury condemnations from Irish sources, there was this startlingly different take from the former Welsh flanker.

Williams was retweeted by Will Carling, who spent the weekend fretting about the "sanitising" of the game. The former England captain utterly rejects the notion that the international captaincy should be taken from Hartley.

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Carling, incidentally, was especially wound up about the sin-binning of Manu Tuilagi in Thomond Park. He scoffed at the notion that rugby players should be punished for being "reckless".

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The latest tweet was retweeted by Matt Dawson, a former Heineken Cup winner with Northampton, who agreed that Hartley was deserving of a red but ultimately has a more benign interpretation of the incident than most Irish observers. Hartley, Dawson contended, intended to launch a swinging arm into O'Brien's rib-cage and was committed by the team it became clear the Leinster player was falling backwards.

Ian McGeechan, frequent Lions coach in the past, was another to adopt a benign view. At the beginning of his column, he urged people to overreact.

Dylan Hartley's rash, swinging arm on Sean O'Brien in Northampton's defeat by Leinster on Friday reopens discussions on his discipline in the context of the Lions, but it is important to keep things in perspective. It is easy to over-react.

This was not a punch, or an eye-gouge, or swearing at the referee. It was not a case of the ‘red mist’ descending as it used to for Hartley. It was a poorly-timed tackle for which he must take responsibility.

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Today, in the Telegraph, rugby writer Mick Cleary joined McGeechan in urging a benign approach. He said Eddie Jones needs to ignore the hypothetical "baying mob" who might soon demand that Hartley be stripped of the England captaincy.

Also, on Wednesday, ahead of the disciplinary hearing, Woodward called for sanity to prevail and warned that we shouldn't turn the England captain into "a pussycat".

There has been a lot of hot air and over-dramatising of the situation. If Hartley receives a suspension, it absolutely should not deprive him of either the England captaincy or see him drop out as a candidate to skipper the Lions.

Firstly, the incident itself. It was a yellow card, possibly a red, but it was not a hanging offence. If it had involved any other player, without the hype and record of previous misdemeanours, the sending-off might be considered penalty enough, or at most a couple of weeks' ban.

Mark Cueto appealed for people not to throw Hartley "under the bus".

 

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Other UK based pundits have adopted a sterner view, somewhat more in line with the prevailing view over here. Lawrence Dallaglio on BT Sport, who does the commentary with Brian O'Driscoll, disagreed rather forcibly with Martyn Williams's view and said that Hartley needed "to go away and have a little think about what's important to him."

And, on the journalistic front, Stephen Jones, once outwardly despised but avidly (hate)read by Irish rugby supporters, says England should strip him of the captaincy and be done with it.

Read more: Detailing Dylan Hartley's History Of Incidents Against Irish Players

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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