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Hartley in doubt for British & Irish Lions tour

Wayne Barnes shows Dylan Hartley a red card in the Premiership final

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Article Published: Sunday 26 May 2013|

England hooker Dylan Hartley could be out of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia after being sent off in Northampton's 37-17 defeat by Leicester in the English Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.

Hooker Hartley saw red when he allegedly accused referee Wayne Barnes of cheating as a fractious match neared half-time and the incident overshadowed Leicester's first title since 2010.

Barnes had previously warned Hartley about inappropriate language but when the Northampton captain apparently accused the official of favouring Leicester he was sent off.

Hartley could be banned for up to a year but will have to wait for the Rugby Union's disciplinary process to kick in.

The Lions fly to Hong Kong on Monday and a spokesman for the tourists indicated to reporters at Twickenham that coach Warren Gatland wanted all players to be available for the match in Perth against the Force on June 5, the second of the trip after the first game against the Barbarians in the Far East next week.

Hartley's track record may count against him - he has been banned three times since 2007, twice for gouging - and although the Lions emphasised the matter was out their hands for the time being, any suspension of two weeks or more would rule him out of the entire trip.

Due to the Lions departure on Monday Hartley's hearing will be heard early on Sunday morning and he will have to answer the charge of alleged verbal abuse of a match official contrary to Law 10(4)(s).

The rumpus overshadowed a see-saw match between two local rivals with Leicester bidding to win the title after being runners-up for the last two years.

Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: "You know how Wayne Barnes referees and we spoke the whole week about discipline because we have been stung in finals with early yellow cards. He likes to be treated with respect.

"In a game as big as this you would imagine Wayne Barnes would be 100 per cent in what he is thinking. I don't want players sent off.

"But Barnes is a very experienced referee, one of the top two or three in the world. That's why he gets these games. There's enough history between Northampton and Leicester to know that discipline is going to be a key part of the game."

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder added: "We don't know what is going on the field. I asked Dylan what he said and he said he was talking to Ben Youngs. There is a lot worse than that going on the field."

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