British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says he feels for Dylan Hartley after the Saints skipper was forced to miss the summer tour of Australia through suspension.
Hartley has been banned for 11 weeks for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes during last Saturday’s Aviva Premiership grand final.
It means he is not able to take his place in the Lions squad for the trip Down Under, and the Saints star has been replaced by Ireland hooker Rory Best.
Gatland, though, has plenty of sympathy for Hartley and hopes the player can recover after making a ‘poor judgement’.
“Dylan’s a young man who has made an unfortunate error,” said Gatland. “To play the game you have to play on the edge, but unfortunately he’s gone to the edge of the cliff and jumped off it. That’s the only analogy I can draw.
“I called him and left a message on his phone. He left a message on my phone thanking me for the call.
“I was looking forward to working with him and really feel for him. He’s made a poor judgement. Hopefully he can put this behind him and move on.”