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England future in doubt for Dylan Hartley before South Africa tour

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England captain Dylan Hartley looks increasingly likely to miss out on the South Africa tour following another setback after the Six Nations.

Hartley has not played since England were defeated in their final game of the tournament against Ireland in March and has missed Northampton's last three matches.

Saints interim head coach Alan Dickens had previously said he could not confirm whether the hooker would return to action this season after suffering concussion.

Given Hartley's dealings with concussion in the past, a very cautious approach is understandably being taken. However, according to the Daily Mail, that has also put his place on the plane to South Africa in serious jeopardy.

Dickens said: “Dylan reported concussion symptoms after the Ireland game so it is one of those where he will go through the return to play protocols as everyone else does.

“In terms of the focus on the concussion now, it is a concern for all the players and that’s why they are so stringent in terms of the return to play.

"We will do what’s right for Dylan. They start (the process) every week. He’s had the week off where we didn’t play after the Irish game. He is going through that process.”

The 32-year-old Hartley has been diagnosed with a serious concussion twice before and has previously stated another head injury could lead him to question the continuation of his career.

England v Ireland - NatWest Six Nations

"If I got another one now, I would be worried," he said at the time. "I would probably start looking at other careers - or a long lay-off. Every time you see your kid you think, 'If I hit my head again, what’s that going to mean?'."

The fact it is taking Hartley so long to recover will mean it is likely he is asking himself the very same question as we speak.

England will play South Africa as part of the 2018 summer tests in June over a three-match series.

With the test series just two months away, England head coach Eddie Jones will be hoping Hartley can come through the troubling times or he will have to look at other candidates to take over as skipper.

England v Wales - NatWest Six Nations

Owen Farrell has impressed in his role as vice-captain, but other possible candidates include Chris Robshaw, who captained England under Stuart Lancaster for four years.

Fly-half George Ford served as co-captain in a shared role with Robshaw in 2017 and Maro Itoje also been highlighted as a potential future leader but like Farrell, may be rested from the tour altogether.

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Topics:
Rugby Union
Chris Robshaw
Dylan Hartley
Northampton Saints
Owen Farrell
England Rugby
George Ford

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