England stars Rugby World Cup in doubt

Dylan Hartley must stake his claim for a place in England’s World Cup squad without playing since mid-December after he was ruled out of Northampton’s clash with Exeter on Saturday.

Saints hoped the 33-year-old hooker would recover from his knee injury in time for the Gallagher Premiership play-off at Sandy Park but director of rugby Chris Boyd revealed that he has failed to recover in time.

“Dylan won’t be ready to play,” Boyd said.

“If there was no rugby to come in the next six months we might roll him out and see if he can get through it.

“But in such a crucial game and not having played since Christmas he’s got some other stuff to get his head around so we’ve decided he’s just not quite ready.

“If we had to roll him out for 20 minutes he could do that and get away with it, although how he’d be on Monday I’m not sure.”

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