RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has given his backing to Dylan Hartley ahead of the Saints star’s disciplinary hearing.
Hartley will appear in front of a three-man panel on Wednesday, charged with striking Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien in the face during last Friday’s 37-10 Champions Cup defeat at Franklin’s Gardens.
The 30-year-old had only been on the field for six minutes before being dismissed by referee Jerome Garces during the second half of the match.
Hartley, who has been banned for a total of 54 weeks in his career, is likely to face a suspension, meaning he will only have played nine times for his club in 2016.
But he has enjoyed a much happier time with England, being given the captaincy by head coach Eddie Jones in January and steering the country to 13 wins from as many matches this year.
And Ritchie believes that record should count in his favour when it comes to dishing out punishment.
“Dylan has clearly played a fantastic part in captaining the team, on and off the pitch just to be clear,” Ritchie said.
“His leadership credentials are very strong. He’s made a huge contribution, as Eddie Jones would say.
“So you view all these things in perspective and in perspective one looks at the totality of what he’s done and what’s happened over the years and I think we should be supportive of that.
“Ultimately we’ll see what happens - I’m not going to talk about the disciplinary process as you know. That will take it’s course and we’ll see what happens out of that.
“If he’s eligible for selection it’s ultimately a matter for Eddie, but we should recognise and support all that Dylan has done in the last 12 months.
“It is primarily a matter for Eddie and if you look back over it, Eddie’s judgement has been really good. We should recognise that and I’m sure we will.”