Dylan Hartley: England captain banned for six weeks
England captain Dylan Hartley will be available for their opening fixture of the Six Nations against France after receiving a six-week ban for striking.
The 30-year-old caught flanker Sean O'Brien with a swinging arm during Northampton Saints' Champions Cup loss to Leinster on Friday and received the third red card of his career.
He has now been suspended for a total of 60 weeks.
England start their Six Nations title defence at Twickenham on 4 February.
Hartley, who pleaded guilty to the charge at an independent disciplinary hearing in London on Wednesday, is able to play again from 23 January.
|Hartley's rap sheet|
|April 2007 - 26 weeks for eye gouging||December 2014 - three weeks for elbowing|
|March 2012 - eight weeks for biting||May 2015 - four weeks for headbutting|
|December 2012 - two weeks for punching||December 2016 - six weeks for striking|
|May 2013 - 11 weeks for swearing at a referee||Total = 60 weeks|
Hartley had only been on the pitch for six minutes after coming on as a replacement when he was dismissed.
"In trying to help the team he got a little bit carried away. It's disappointing, but we've got to move on," Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton before the ban was announced.
Hartley was dropped from last year's Rugby World Cup squad after he headbutted Saracens' Jamie George, but was recalled by Eddie Jones after the Australian had replaced Stuart Lancaster as England head coach.
The hooker went on to lead the side to a Six Nations Grand Slam and 13 consecutive Test match victories this year.
Speaking on Tuesday, Rugby Football Union boss Ian Ritchie said the forward should continue as England captain, despite his latest misdemeanour.
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland would not be drawn on whether Hartley's disciplinary record would affect his chances of leading the 2017 tour in New Zealand.
"It's about picking the squad first and looking afterwards... who can do a good job and in terms of captaincy," said Gatland on Tuesday.
|Fixtures Hartley will miss|
|Leinster (a), 17 December, Champions Cup|
|Sale (h), 23 December, Premiership|
|Gloucester (a), 1 January, Premiership|
|Bristol (h), 7 January, Premiership|
|Castres (h), (date tbc) January, Champions Cup|
|Montpellier (a), (date tbc) January, Champions Cup|
Hartley told the BBC he had "learned from his lessons" when he was named as captain for the Six Nations in January.
"I play my best when I'm on the edge," he told BBC sports editor Dan Roan. "I just know to not go over the edge."