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Dylan Hartley to miss Lions tour following 11-week ban

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Northampton Saints captain Dylan Hartley will miss the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia after being found guilty of verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes during the Aviva Premiership final against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham. The hooker was sent off on the stroke of half-time when he called Barnes a "cheat", with a preceding expletive, and has been given an 11-week ban following a hearing this morning. Hartley, who was banned for two weeks last December for striking Ulster's Rory Best, for eight weeks in the 2012 Six Nations for biting Steve Ferris and 26 weeks in 2007 for gouging, had been warned just minutes earlier by Barnes for his conduct towards the referee. At the hearing he pleaded not guilty, as he claimed that his remark was aimed at Tigers hooker Tom Youngs, but the panel found him guilty and determined that this was mid-range on the scale of seriousness. The entry point for mid-range is a suspension of twelve weeks and that was reduced by one week to reflect his good conduct at the hearing. He is suspended from today (May 26) until July 6, and from August 17 to August 31, and free to play again on September 1. The case was heard at Epsom Downs Holiday Inn by a panel of His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett, Jeremy Summers and Peter Budge. Judge Blackett said: "We cannot get around the fact that Wayne Barnes was certain that Mr Hartley's comments were directed at him. Wayne Barnes said that if he had had any doubt in his mind, then he would have given the player the benefit of the doubt. "In terms of sanction, calling a referee a cheat is an attack on his integrity and contrary to the core values of rugby and therefore we have taken a serious view and provided a serious sanction."

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