Hartley may have to fight for place in England’s RWC squad without playing since December

DYLAN HARTLEY’S CHANCES of earning a place in England’s World Cup squad were further hurt when he was ruled out of this weekend’s Premiership semi-final meaning he has missed most of the European season.

Northampton visit Exeter on Saturday and had hoped to have the 33-year-old hooker back from a knee injury that has sidelined him since mid-December.

But Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd told Britain’s Press Association on Wednesday that they would not be risking Hartley against the Chiefs.

“Dylan won’t be ready to play,” Boyd said. “If there was no rugby to come in the next six months we might roll him out and see if he can get through it.

“But in such a crucial game and not having played since Christmas he’s got some other stuff to get his head around so we’ve decided he’s just not quite ready.

“If we had to roll him out for 20 minutes he could do that and get away with it, although how he’d be on Monday I’m not sure.”

Hartley, as captain and then co-captain, was a mainstay in the early years of Eddie Jones’ reign as England coach following the Australian’s appointment after the team’s first-round exit on home soil at the 2015 World Cup.

He is almost certain to be named in Jones’ training squad, but should Northampton fail to beat Exter, he will have to stake a claim for a place in England’s travelling party after more than six months on the sidelines.

“His time will come when he’s ready,” Boyd added.

“I know that if he’d had to get through 75 minutes last week against Exeter last week when Reece Marshall went down with injury, he might have been in a wheelchair this morning.

© — AFP 2019

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