Bite on the finger for Ferris, very minor slap on the wrist for Hartley
England hooker Dylan Hartley has been hit with a surprisingly lenient eight-week ban for his chomp on Stephen Ferris’ hand on Paddy’s Day.
The Northampton player was cited during England’s 30-9 mauling of Ireland for an alleged bite on the finger of Ferris and we were told to expect a minimum of 12 weeks in the stands for the offence. Some were even suggesting it could be much longer, with 24 weeks the maximum allowable by the International Rugby Board for such an offence.
The ruling is a surprise as Hartley has a bit of previous. In 2007 the Kiwi-born England international was banned for 26 weeks after been found guilty of eye gouging Jonny O’Connor and James Haskell in a game against Wasps.
The ruling also means that Hartley will be free to travel with the England squad on their summer tour of South Africa but he will miss the Saints final Aviva Premiership games and only reappear again this season if they make the Premiership final on May 26.
Referee at Twickenham on March 17, Nigel Owens, didn’t see the incident and the TV didn’t pick it up either but Owns was heard to speak to Chris Robshaw and Rory Best after it happened.
“I have an accusation of biting, a clear mark on the finger,” he said. “I did not see something. If I do it will be dealt with severely, which would be a red card.
“It could be dealt with afterwards. If it is seen it will be dealt with. I did not see it. Have a word. Nothing like that takes place in this game. I can only deal with what I see. Have a word please. I have had a look. Unless I can see it, it’s been dealt with, OK?”
Well, now it has been dealt with, rather gently it would seem. Maybe more details will emerge but for now we are more than a little surprised the ban is so short.