LONDON (Reuters) - England captain Dylan Hartley was banned for six weeks on Wednesday for striking an opponent playing for his club Northampton, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said in a statement.
The 30-year-old hooker, who will be available for the start of England's Six Nations campaign, was shown a red card for a swinging arm tackle shortly after coming on as a replacement in the European Champions Cup match against Leinster on Friday.
Hartley, previously banned for 54 weeks in his career for offences including eye-gouging, biting and verbally abusing referees, was named England captain by coach Eddie Jones this year and led the team to 13 wins in a row.
"In upholding the red card decision, the Committee found that the offence was at the mid-range of World Rugby's sanctions and selected five weeks as the appropriate entry point," EPCR said.
"Taking into account Hartley's poor disciplinary record, the Committee added two weeks to the sanction and then reduced the sanction by one week due to the player's guilty plea before imposing a suspension of six weeks."Hartley missed the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in 2013 due to suspension and was omitted from the England squad for last year's World Cup because of a ban for head-butting.
He is among the leading candidates to captain the Lions on next year's tour of New Zealand, along with Ireland hooker Rory Best and Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones.
Hartley will be free to play again on Jan. 23. England begin the defence of their Six Nations title against France at Twickenham on Feb. 4.
Reporting by Ed Osmond, editing by Ken Ferris