England legend accuses Dylan Hartley of ‘deliberately injuring’ opponents

Jeff Probyn, who once helped ban Dylan Hartley for eye gouging, has claimed the New Zealand-born ex-England hooker wasn’t a true rugby “hard man” because he committed “deliberate acts of violence”.

The prop, who won 37 England caps between 1988 and 1993, slammed Hartley’s recent autobiography as a “sham”.

Writing in The Rugby Paper, he said: “His book, The Hurt, has some interesting views but nothing new, while attempting to justify a career cut short by injury and suspensions,”

He added: “There is a part of me that can’t help thinking that the injuries and the suspension he received during his career may be linked.

“I disagree as there is nothing hard about the deliberate acts of violence he designed to seriously injure other players who are trapped in either a ruck or a maul and unable to protect themselves, something he admits he did even at U19s level.

“Hartley protests in the quoted sections that his suspensions were, in part, because the discipline section of the RFU was unfit for purpose and out of date, which is laughable.

“Having sat on the panel that banned him for six months for eye gouging in 2007, I disagree.”

Discussing the case, he added that they: “watched numerous videos of the incidences (I say incidences because he gouged three people in the same game) and then we took statements from fellow international players who were part of the opposition and victims of his assaults.

“It is not unusual for fellow internationals to support each other even when testifying against each other – but this was certainly not the case, with his colleagues calling for a lengthy ban.”

Hartley’s suspensions included:

– 2007: 26 weeks for eye gouging two Wasps forwards.

– 2012: 8 weeks for biting the finger of Ireland backrower Stephen Ferris.

– 2012: 2 weeks for punching Ulster hooker Rory Best.

– 2013: 11 weeks for verbally abusing a match officials in the English Premiership final.

-2014: 3 weeks for elbowing a Leicester Tigers player.

– 2015: 4 weeks for contacting Saracens’ hooker Jamie George’s head.

– 2016: 6 weeks for a swinging arm to Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien’s head.


JOIN THE RUCK:


RANKED | The definitive list of England’s most-banned players

England’s five most-banned players from down the years revealed.

5. Neil Back – Seven months in total

England flanker Back was in big trouble from the moment he pushed referee Steve Lander to the ground on the final whistle of Leicester’s 1996 Pilkington Cup final defeat against Bath. He maintained he had mistaken Lander for Bath back-rower Andy Robinson, but it didn’t wash and he was handed a six month ban. In 2005, he picked up a four-week ban for punching Wasps’ Joe Worsley in the Zurich Grand Final.

CONTINUES ON PAGE 2