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'He's a cheap shot merchant. Always has been. He's obviously a liar as well'

By Ian Cameron
(L-R) England's front row forwards, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley and Alex Corbisiero force Ireland to concede a penalty try during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium on March 17, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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It’s fair to say that former Ireland back row Stephen Ferris and former England hooker Dylan Hartley never quite saw eye-to-eye on the pitch – or off it for that matter.

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The pair would lock horns on a few occasions during their careers, with notorious England bad-boy Hartley playing the villain.

By far their most infamous tussle was in the 2012 Six Nations. The pair found themselves at the bottom of a ruck in the 27th minute and while referee Nigel Owens didn’t see the incident and couldn’t card Hartley, he was duly cited.

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Stephen Ferris, have New Zealand rugby lost their aura? | RugbyPass Offload | EP 42
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Stephen Ferris, have New Zealand rugby lost their aura? | RugbyPass Offload | EP 42

Hartley was ultimately handed an 8-week ban after he was found guilty of biting Ferris’s finger during his side’s 30-9 victory over the Irish in the final match of the tournament.

It’s an incident that still rankles for Ferris, not least because Hartley denies he did it and no mea-culpa has ever been forthcoming.

‘He’s a cheap shot merchant. Always has been. He’s obviously a liar as well,” Ferris told the RugbyPass Offload Podcast, when recalling the incident.

“When we played against England in 2012, bottom of a ruck, far left-hand side, I went to Dubai two or three days after that and a week later in Dubai I still had the teeth marks of Dylan Hartley’s teeth in my finger.

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“I’m hardly going to stand on the pitch and bite my own finger and go hold on ref! It was only me and Dylan Hartley on the floor. It couldn’t have been anyone else.

“Unless a dog f***ing ran out from the stadium and bit me on the finger and ran off again.

“See, if he had rang me up and gone ‘Stephen, sorry about that, bite your finger’, as he talks about the red mist, comes over him. I would have gone alright, no worries pal. We all make mistakes. See you later. I’ll catch you around.

“Pal of mine, Roger Wilson, played with him in Northampton and said he’s a top lad. A really good bloke.

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“I’ve been in around his company a few times. But I’ve never got chatting to him.”

Despite both of the players now being on the commentary circuit, they are yet to cross paths in that industry, but the pair were sat at the same table at a World Rugby awards not so long ago.

“I sat beside Eddie Jones at a World Rugby awards. The one that’s usually in Monaco, but I missed out on the one in Monaco and it was in London. I was sitting at a table with Itoje and a lot of the lads. Hartley was at my table, but it was a huge round table and he was at the far side.

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“And Eddie Jones is sitting right beside. I was asking myself, what am I doing at this table? You when you come to a table and automatically look around to see who’s going to be sitting beside you.

“All the other lads shook hands with me and said hello apart from Dylan Hartley. Maybe he has more beef with me than I had with him.”

Ferris believes the England hooker would have been banned for longer if it had happened in the current climate.

“I made a complaint to the referee straight away in the match. Honestly, if that had happened in this day and age with all the cameras, he’d probably have been banned for a couple of seasons.

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“If he rang me up and to put this to bed and was like ‘I’m sorry man, I bit your finger’ and I’d go no worries. Sweet. That’s it. Put to bed. Never speak about it again.

“But he has the audacity to call me a liar. He got banned anyway, so that tells its own story.”

It fact wasn’t the only run in the pair had on the pitch, with Hartley getting involved with Ferris in an U20s international match over 15 years ago. As Ferris tells it, his arms were trapped in a maul and he recalled how Hartley took the opportunity to punch him in the face in what was the first game they played against each other.

 

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