Hartley has 'credit in the bank' after red card

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Dylan Hartley's Champions Cup red card should not impact on his position as England captain, according to Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie.

Hartley was dismissed just six minutes after coming on as a replacement during Northampton Saints' 37-10 defeat to Leinster on Friday, having caught Sean O'Brien with a forearm to the side of the head.

The incident is the latest in a long line of disciplinary problems for Hartley, who has served 54 weeks of suspension during his career and missed the 2015 Rugby World Cup after a headbutt on Saracens' Jamie George led to his omission by then coach Stuart Lancaster.

Current England chief Eddie Jones re-instated Hartley and installed him as captain for a year that has seen the team remain unbeaten in 13 matches.

And Ritchie believes that record should be taken into account when Hartley's case is heard by a disciplinary committee on Wednesday.

"I think Dylan's got credit in the bank," Ritchie told BBC Sport.

"I think most people would say it's been a fantastic year. We've had 13 wins out of 13 and Dylan has made a huge contribution and he should be allowed to continue that.

"Obviously it's disappointing when he gets sent off but we'll wait and see what happens,.

"If he's eligible to be in contention for the Six Nations then it's a matter for Eddie.

"He's been a great leader and his performances on the pitch, and the way he's helped Eddie with the team... I think he's done a fantastic job.

"Ever since Dylan's been involved in the set-up, he has been the perfect ambassador on and off the pitch."

Hartley could be banned for anything up to a year if his offence is deemed to be at the "top end".