(Reuters) - Former England captain Dylan Hartley blamed artificial pitches for a knee injury that cost him a place in the Rugby World Cup squad and called them unsuitable for the professional game.
Hooker Hartley, 33, led England to back-to-back Six Nations triumphs in 2016-17 but has not played since suffering the injury while representing club side Northampton against Worcester in December.
Hartley said he felt Worcester’s artificial pitch at Sixways Stadium was responsible for his injury.
“If there’s a platform to show my support for getting rid of artificial pitches, it’s here... I don’t think you need them,” he told British media.
“I’d played the fortnight before and tweaked my knee in a game, then I played on an artificial pitch the following week and probably playing on an injury didn’t help.
“You’ve got pitch covers, indoor stadiums... employ more groundsmen. It might be suited to under-10s or under-12s... great for the community, but I’m talking about our (professional) game, it’s not suited.”
New Zealand-born Hartley said he was still recovering from the disappointment of being left out of Eddie Jones’s 31-man squad for the World Cup in Japan.
“When the World Cup squad was announced, it was almost like I’d died. Friends getting in touch and seeing if I was OK,” Hartley, who has 97 England caps, added.
“The way I looked at my whole rugby career and how I wanted it to pan out, was that this would have been the ultimate send-off, the dream finish. The reality is you pick up an injury.
“For four years we have talked about winning the World Cup with Eddie and I have led that group... so to fall at the final hurdle... I wake up most nights thinking about it. It doesn’t sit well with me but I have come to terms with it.”
England begin their World Cup campaign against Tonga on Sept. 22 before games against the United States, Argentina and France.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ian Ransom