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Hartley can still be Lions captain: Best

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 19/01/2017 Nick Purewal

Ireland captain Rory Best insists New Zealand-born Dylan Hartley still has plenty of time to state a compelling case for the British and Irish Lions' captaincy.

Best believes Hartley's latest ban will not scupper his chances of leading the Lions in New Zealand this year.

England skipper Hartley took his career suspensions tally to 60 weeks with the six-week ban for striking Leinster's Sean O'Brien.

Ulster hooker Best has been tipped as among the front-runners to captain the 2017 Lions but the 34-year-old has moved to downplay his own chances.

"Dylan's not injured, so he has an opportunity to get a good block of training done without getting beaten up every week in a match situation," Best told Press Association Sport.

"So from that side of things, when you get to March and the shake-up in the Six Nations for the last two rounds of that, you'd be going a long way to say that his ban from December would be dictating events."

Hartley was always a bold choice when Jones confirmed the Northampton front-rower as England captain last year.

The combative hooker had lengthy suspensions on his rap-sheet for eye-gouging, biting, punching and elbowing when Jones named him skipper.

Hartley missed the 2013 Lions tour after a ban for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes. He then missed the 2015 World Cup after head-butting Test rival Jamie George - but produced a flawless disciplinary display as Jones' England side won 13 out of 13 in a stellar 2016.

The 30-year-old will have time for just one Northampton appearance before the Six Nations.

Head coach Jones has even tasked the Northampton hooker with undergoing a rigorous fitness test ahead of that fast-looming France clash.

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