Dylan Hartley says he is ‘devastated’ after being dropped from England’s World Cup squad.
The Saints skipper has been left out by head coach Stuart Lancaster after being hit with a four-week ban for headbutting Saracens hooker Jamie George in the Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final at Franklin’s Gardens last Saturday.
Ironically, George will now replace Hartley in England’s 50-man group ahead of the tournament.
It is another big blow for Hartley, who missed the 2013 Lions tour after being banned for 11 weeks verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes in that year’s Premiership final.
And the 29-year-old said: “I am devastated with what has happened and the position I have put myself and the England team in.
“I would like to apologise to Jamie, Stuart, and my team mates both at Saints as well as England.
“What happened is not acceptable and I understand why this decision has been made.”