Dylan Hartley: England captain feared for international career following ban

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England captain feared that his latest ban would cost him his international career.
Six Nations 2017
Dates: Feb-18 March Coverage: BBC TV, Radio and online

Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley says he feared that his latest ban would cost him his international career.

The 30-year-old has been confirmed as England's captain for the Six Nations by coach Eddie Jones - two days after his six-week suspension for hitting Leinster's Sean O'Brien ended.

Hartley will not have played for nine weeks before England's opening game against France on 4 February.

"I did think that maybe that was it," Hartley told BBC Sport.

"But again, a conversation with Eddie - a very clear and direct conversation - and I know where I stand," he added.

Hartley, who led England to the Grand Slam last year, was banned in December after he caught the Irish flanker with a swinging arm during Northampton's 37-10 Champions Cup loss. It was the third red card of his career.

The subsequent suspension took the total number of weeks he has been unavailable during his career to 60.

Hartley's rap sheet
April 2007: 26 weeks for eye gougingDecember 2014: three weeks for elbowing
March 2012: eight weeks for bitingMay 2015: four weeks for headbutting
December 2012: two weeks for punchingDecember 2016: six weeks for striking
May 2013: 11 weeks for swearing at a refereeTotal: 60 weeks

"I obviously came back to Northampton and wanted to make a positive impact in a big game for the club," said Hartley. "It obviously went horribly wrong.

"Positive, dominant, hard tackle. That's what I was thinking. Obviously the outcome was different to what I intended.

"That walk off the field is never a quick moment. It seems to drag on for quite a while, but obviously gives you time to reflect and I understand I could have jeopardised a lot.

"I put myself and the team in a difficult position and since then I've had clear directives from the management of what they expect and here I am."

Hartley said that part of the directive from Jones was to improve his tackle technique.

"I've worked very hard with [England defence coach] Paul Gustard on that," added Hartley. "It's not something that just finishes now that I'm back playing. It's an ongoing thing."

Hartley was dropped from England's 2015 Rugby World Cup squad after he headbutted Saracens' Jamie George, but was recalled by the Australian after he replaced Stuart Lancaster.

The hooker went on to lead the side to a Six Nations Grand Slam as they embarked on a run of 14 consecutive Test match victories.

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