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Saints captain Hartley banned for 3 weeks

The Rugby Football Union has handed Northampton Saints captain Dylan Hartley a three week suspension for an elbow thrown at an opponent during the weekend's clash with Leicester Tigers.

Hartley leaves the field after Saturday's red card Credit: PA

Hartley was sent off in the Aviva Premiership match between Saints and Leicester Tigers for striking Matt Smith with his elbow. The Northampton Saints hooker pleaded guilty and the case was heard via conference call by Jeremy Summers, sitting as a sole Judicial Officer.

“The sanction reflects the low end entry point of the offence, which carries a two-week tariff. The entry point was aggravated having regard to Dylan’s previous record and a week was taken off to reflect mitigating circumstances. As such the sanction reflects the player’s record rather than the seriousness of the offence itself.”

– Jeremy Summers, RFU

Hartley is banned until January 11, 2015. The decision means he wil miss Saints' next three Premiership matches, but will be available for England selection for the start of the Six Nations Championship in February.

Northampton Saints pair Manoa and Ma’afu to join Toulon

Samu Manoa is heading to Toulon. Credit: PA

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has confirmed that Northampton Saints forwards Samu Manoa and Salesi Ma’afu will sign for his club at the end of the season.

The news will come as a blow to Northampton who had managed to tie down their other prized assets in Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes last week.

American star Manoa has been handed a four-year contract by the European Champions, and Boudjellal has backed him to impress in France.

“Samu Manoa is the first four-year contract that I have signed.

For me, he will become the star of the Top 14. He is a rugby phenomenon, made for Mayol."

– Mourad Boudjellal, Toulon owner
Salesi Ma’afu is also heading for the exit door. Credit: PA

Toulon have also agreed a deal to sign Saints prop Ma’afu, while New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu and Clermont winger Napolioni Nalaga have also joined.

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Hartley spurns Montpellier advances to pen new Northampton Saints deal

Dylan Hartley has signed a new contract with Northampton Saints. Credit: PA

Seven Northampton Saints players, including England stars Dylan Hartley and Courtney Lawes, have signed new contracts with the club.

Speculation had been mounting that Hartley would switch to French club Montpellier, but the Saints captain has revealed that he spurned their advances to stay at Franklin's Gardens.

Courtney Lawes is also staying at Franklin's Gardens. Credit: PA

Second-row Courtney Lawes was also linked with a move away after establishing himself as one of the best forwards in the Aviva Premiership.

Calum Clark, Alex Waller, Ethan Waller, James Craig and Gareth Denman have also committed their futures to Northampton.

“We have a group that has shown time and again that they have the ability to compete at the highest level of club rugby, and retaining players is very important to us.

The seven forwards that we have announced today are all good players already, but they still have the ability to improve and we are looking forward to seeing them develop further at Franklin’s Gardens.”

– Jim Mallinder, Northampton Saints director of Rugby

Click below to see a full interview with Dylan Hartley:

Saints ring changes for Treviso clash

Northampton Saints will make nine changes for their Champions Cup clash with Italian side Treviso.

Wales star George North is back after missing last week’s match with concussion, while Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood all start.

Courtney Lawes (left) and Tom Wood (right) start against Treviso, with Lee Dickson among the replacements. Credit: PA

Ben Foden, Luther Burrell and Lee Dickson drop to the bench, with James Wilson, George Pisi and Kahn Fotuali’i all coming in.

Saints are currently level with Racing Metro at the top of Pool 5.

Northampton Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Stephenson, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; E Waller, Hartley (c), Ma’afu; Dickinson, Lawes; Clark, Wood, Dowson.

Replacements: Haywood, A Waller, Denman, C Day, Manoa, L Dickson, Burrell, Foden.

Treviso: Hayward; Ragusi, Morisi, Bacchin, Nitoglia; Carlisle, Gori; Zanusso, Anae, Muccignat; Pavanello, Fuser; Swanepoel, Minto, Luamanu.

Replacements: Kudin, Novak, Acosta, Vallejos, Lazzaroni, Favaro, Trevisan, Ambrosini.

Northampton Saints star Dickson not giving up on England World Cup dream

Lee Dickson is desperate to return to the England squad. Credit: PA

Northampton Saints star Lee Dickson admits he's desperate to force his way back into the England squad ahead of next year's World Cup.

The scrum-half was overlooked by Head Coach Stuart Lancaster for the Autumn internationals last month.

Despite the setback, Dickson says he's focussed on impressing for the Saints - starting with this Saturday's European Cup trip to Italian side Treviso.

"I've been very disappointed not to play for England when I've felt like maybe I could have had a crack here and there but that's professional rugby.

Things go against you and you've got to react.

I think I've reacted very well, I think I've played well in the last couple of games and I've just got to keep putting my hand up."

– Lee Dickson, Northampton Saints

England Head Coach Lancaster "optimistic" that Lawes and Hartley will face South Africa

Courtney Lawes could now face South Africa Credit: PA

England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster is "optimistic" that Northampton Saints forwards Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley will be fit to face South Africa on Saturday.

There were serious concerns over Lawes in particular, who was forced to come off in the defeat to New Zealand with concussion.

Dylan Hartley took a blow to the head against the All Blacks. Credit: PA

Both players will still need to pass concussion tests in order to feature at Twickenham.

"Courtney is symptom-free so hopefully he will be okay. Dylan has also got bit of a head knock and is in the same situation.

They need to train on Thursday to be ready. They will do a cog test on Thursday morning which they have to pass to train.

We will have provisions in place should they fail that, but we are optimistic they will be available."

– Stuart Lancaster, England Head Coach
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