Saints rally round Hartley
Dylan Hartley is waiting to find out whether his Lions ambitions have gone up in smoke
Dylan Hartley has been described as "an inspirational leader" ahead of the disciplinary hearing that will decide his British and Irish Lions fate.
The Northampton captain is charged with alleged verbal abuse of referee Wayne Barnes during yesterday's Aviva Premiership final against Leicester at Twickenham.
Hartley, who was sent off, could land a minimum six-week ban. He is currently part of a 37-man Lions squad that will leave London for Hong Kong on Monday. Barnes brandished a red card after Hartley allegedly called him a "f****** cheat" just before half-time of a game that Leicester won 37-17.
Hartley faced a Rugby Football Union disciplinary hearing on Sunday, chaired by Judge Jeff Blackett, but Northampton players and coaches have rallied behind the 43 times capped England forward, who has served three suspensions of varying lengths for different offences during the past six years.
"We are all behind Dylan - he is our captain and our leader," Saints fly-half Stephen Myler said. "He is an inspirational leader, he leads by what he does. He's an intensive guy, he gets himself around the pitch and shows us the way. Dylan has been at the club for a long time now, and he is captain for a reason. I don't think he is a malicious player, and fingers crossed it's not too bad for him."
Barnes awarded Leicester a scrum during first-half injury time after Myler's 22-metre drop-out went straight into touch. The scrum then collapsed, Saints were penalised and Hartley made his alleged remark.
"The reaction at half-time, when we were down to 14 men, I thought we came out and gave a good account of ourselves against a quality team like Leicester," Myler added. "With our start to the second half we showed we felt we could still win the game. We played some good rugby and we hurt Leicester, but it was a heartbreaking result and tough to take."
The Lions confirmed to Press Association Sport that if Hartley is unavailable for their second tour match - against Western Force in Perth on June 5 - then he would be replaced in the squad.
A Lions spokesman said: "Warren Gatland (head coach) has always indicated that these players (competing in Premiership and PRO12 finals) would not play in the first match against the Barbarians, but they would have to be available for the second match of the tour.
"That is the criteria for Hartley coming on tour. If he gets a suspension that prevents him from making that second game then that is where we are."