Rugby Union

Can Stuart Lancaster risk picking Dylan Hartley in his World Cup squad?

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Can Stuart Lancaster take the risk of selecting Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley for the Rugby World Cup in September of this year?

Hartley aged 29, will miss the first of England's three World Cup warm-up games, after being found guilty of a head-butting offence committed against Saracens' Jamie George in last Saturday's Premiership semi-final.

Off the field Hartley might well be the perfect ambassador for club and country but once he steps across the white line he has something missing. He has got a switch that goes in his head.

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In the cauldron that is England’s World Cup group with matches against Australia and Wales we are playing against players who know how to flick that switch.

Lancaster has already warned the hooker about his lack of discipline, and this is a headache the head coach can well do without.

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Controversy

Hartley has now been banned six times in his career. He was sent off while playing for Northampton against Leicester in December. He has missed 50 weeks of his career through suspensions for offences ranging from gouging and biting to abusing a referee.

He also missed the 2013 Lions tour of Australia after he was banned for 11 weeks for being sent off during the Premiership final, where he was shown the red card for swearing at referee Wayne Barnes and calling him a "cheat".

He always seems to lose control at vital moments in important games and games do not come any more important than those in the World Cup.

Will he be able to control his passion in the important group games against Wales and Australia and hopefully the more important knock out games later on in the tournament.

It will be hard enough to win those games with 15 players, but if we were down to 14, it would become nigh-on impossible against the better quality teams in the tournament.

The selection decision rests with Stuart Lancaster and England’s World cup hopes could well rest on him making the right call.

We must have 15 players on the field at all times to be successful in this World Cup.

Pick Hartley or leave him out? Have your say in the comments below!

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Topics:
Rugby Union
England Rugby
Northampton Saints

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