LONDON (AP) — England captain Dylan Hartley will miss the rugby tour of South Africa in June because of concussion.
Hartley hasn't played since he took a head knock on March 17 in the last round of the Six Nations against Ireland at Twickenham.
Concerns were raised in regard to his history of concussions that prompted an admission in 2016 that another significant blow would force him to reconsider his future in the game. He has now been stood down until the preseason for next season.
"I'm very disappointed that I will not be available for selection for (Northampton) Saints' remaining Premiership games, as well England's tour to South Africa," Hartley said on Monday.
"It has been recommended by specialists that I take a break this summer and, while I find that decision hard to accept, it's important I listen to that advice."
Two years ago, Hartley was ruled out for a total of 14 weeks because of two concussions, the last in the Grand Slam-clinching victory over France in which he was knocked out. The 32-year-old hooker later conceded he had no memory of the trophy presentation on the pitch, and questioned whether another substantial head knock could result in his early retirement.
Owen Farrell is the front-runner to replace Hartley as captain for the three-test series against the Springboks. The flyhalf was in charge when Hartley missed the March showdown with France because of a tight calf.
However, coach Eddie Jones has indicated he might rest some of his British Lions with next year's Rugby World Cup in mind, and Farrell ought to be on that list.
Also taking no part in the tour are Jonathan Joseph (ankle), Anthony Watson (Achilles), Nathan Hughes and Courtney Lawes (both knee), while Billy Vunipola has not played since January because of a broken arm.