Dylan Hartley is a doubt for England’s summer tour to South Africa after Northampton Saints expressed their concerns over the England captain’s concussion symptoms.
Hartley has not played since suffering from concussion in England’s Six Nations defeat to Ireland three weeks ago, missing the Saints last two matches in the process, and coach Alan Dickens has confirmed that he has not yet passed return-to-play protocols.
“Dylan reported concussion symptoms after the Ireland game so it’s one of those – he’ll go through the return-to-play protocols,” Dickens said. “In terms of the focus on concussion now, it’s a concern for all the players. That’s why they’re so stringent in terms of the process to return to play. We’ll do what’s right by Dylan.”
In order to return to action, Hartley will need to pass a six-stage assessment without showing any symptoms of concussion, but the news that he is yet to pass these protocols with so little time left in the Saints’ season means that he may become one of the men Eddie Jones elects to leave at home.
England coach Eddie Jones is refusing to panic following his side’s third successive defeat but as Sir Clive Woodward has noted his team are “staring down the barrel” as a summer tour to South Africa looms.
Hartley has a history of suffering from concussion, missing much of the 2015/16 season with two separate head injuries, and he has previously admitted that another head injury would lead him to consider his future in the game.
“If I got another one now, I would be worried,” Hartley said back in 2016. “I would probably start looking at other careers or stuff like that, or maybe a long lay-off. Maybe I [need to] look at my tackling technique, too. I just had a constant reminder every time that you see your kid and you think, ‘If I hit my head again, what’s that going to mean?'”