Earlier this week, England hooker Dylan Hartley was given a four week ban for headbutting Saracens counterpart Jamie George. This has also now ruled him out of the England Rugby World Cup squad. The Northampton Saints captain has now been suspended for an incredible 54 weeks of his professional career, but is he the most ill-disciplined player in the game?
Duncan McRaePerhaps the most infamous moment in the history of rugby. As part of the 2001 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia, the Lions played the Waratahs in a warm-up game. McRae pinned Ronan O'Gara to the ground and landed an incredible 11 punches to the head of the fly-half. McRae was handed a 7 week ban, while O'Gara was left with eight stitches.
Bakkies BothaThe Toulon second row has totted up the suspensions over the years, with 26 weeks in total at the last count. In 2003 the South African was given 8 weeks for “attacking the face” of Wallabies hooker Brendan Cannon; 3 weeks for an incident with Phil Waugh, another Wallaby in 2009; also in '09 two games for an illegal clear out on Adam Jones in the second Lions Test; four weeks for a similar offence on Gio Aplon in 2010; and nine weeks for a headbutt on Jimmy Cowan in 2010.
Schalk BurgerAnother Lions incident, this time from the 2005 tour of South Africa. Burger gouged the eye of Lions winger Luke Fitzgerald, a move which Springboks coach claimed was "part of the sport". The eight week ban handed to Burger said otherwise.Dylan HartleyThe man of the moment! His ban this week makes it 54 weeks out of the game in his career, a British & Irish Lions tour missed, and now a home World Cup after Stuart Lancaster announced that the hooker wouldn't be part of the RWC 2015 training squad. 26 weeks in April 2007 for gouging James Haskell and Jonny O'Connor; 8 weeks in March 2012 for biting Stephen Ferris; another fortnight in December of the same year for striking Rory Best; 11 weeks in May 2013 for abusing referee Wayne Barnes; 3 weeks for elbowing Matt Smith in December 2014; and the most recent four weeks on the sidelines for headbutting Jamie George.
A slightly different addition to the list, it was whilst working as Harlequins coach that Richards' indiscretions took place. Bloodgate erupted when Tom Williams burst a fake blood capsule in his mouth, enabling a blood replacement to happen. Richards was banned from all rugby for 2 years, Williams given 12 months, later reduced to 4 on appeal.Calum ClarkThe Northampton flanker was handed a 64 week ban - reduced to 32 after a guilty plea - for intentionally hyper-extending and breaking the arm of Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins during the 2012 LV cup final.
As you can see, TV cameras catch everything. From Tom Williams' cheeky wink, to Bakkies Botha head butting Jimmy Cowan, why professional players still commit such acts of violence knowing viewers around the world are able to hone in on their every movement is beyond me. However, rugby is a game of controlled aggression and to be at the limit of their physical capabilities, these players must live on the boundary of what is legal and what's not. The majority manage to do this quite successfully though, with only a minority falling victim to these 'red mist' moments.
What Hartley did is inexcusable, he really should know better given he also sat out the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour for verbally abusing a match official.
Now he can add RWC 2015 to his TV viewing pleasure!