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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Saints withdraw Hartley's appeal
Dylan Hartley.
Hartley has been banned until 17 October
Northampton have withdrawn their appeal over the 26-week ban imposed on Dylan Hartley for gouging in the Premiership match against Wasps on 15 April.

Hartley, 21, was found guilty of making illegal contact with the eye area of Johnny O'Connor and the eye of James Haskell and is banned until 17 October.

The appeal was due to be heard on Thursday, 3 May.

The ban ends the hooker's hopes of breaking into England's squad for the World Cup, which starts on 7 September.

The decision not to appeal caps a bad week for the Saints, who were relegated from the Premiership on Saturday.

RUGBY UNION'S LONGEST BANS
Trevor Brennan (Life)
Punching supporter (2007)*
Wendell Sailor (Two years)
Positive test for cocaine (2006)
Richard Nones (Two years)
Gouging (1999)
Johan Le Roux (19 months)
Ear-biting (1994)
Kevin Yates (Six months)
Ear-biting (1998)
* Appeal will be heard on 1 June

Hartley's suspension is the longest dished out to a top-flight player in England since ex-Bath prop Kevin Yates received a six-month ban for biting in 1998.

Hartley was cited by an independent match commissioner for making contact with the eye areas of O'Connor, Joe Worsley and Haskell during his side's 35-29 defeat at Adams Park.

He pleaded not guilty on all three counts but an RFU disciplinary panel found him guilty in relation to the incidents with Haskell and O'Connor. He was cleared on the Worsley count.

606: DEBATE
TS

Judge Jeff Blackett, chairman of the three-man panel, said: "Contact with an opponent's eyes is a serious offence because of the vulnerability of the area and risk of permanent injury.

"It is often the result of an insidious act and is one of the most abhored by rugby players."

He added that the panel had decided 30 weeks was an appropriate punishment but reduced it to 26 "after taking into account his good character, youth and inexperience".



SEE ALSO
Injury forces Thompson to retire
15 Apr 07 |  English
Wasps 35-29 Northampton
15 Apr 07 |  English


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