Danny Cipriani is set to make his Gloucester debut on Thursday – if he avoids a ban.
Cipriani has been named by Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann in the team for a pre-season friendly against Guinness PRO14 side the Dragons at Kingsholm.
The Gloucester and England fly-half faces an independent disciplinary panel in Bristol on Wednesday after being charged by the Rugby Football Union with “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game”.
He could face a fine and/or period of suspension if the complaint is upheld.
Cipriani was last week fined £2,000 by Jersey Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to charges of common assault and resisting arrest following an incident that took place on Gloucester’s pre-season tour.
Gloucester have selected Cipriani in the number 10 shirt for their final game before beginning their Premiership campaign against Northampton on September 1.
If he is free to play, it will be the 30-year-old’s first Gloucester appearance following a high-profile summer move from their Premiership rivals Wasps.
The RFU have pressed ahead with a misconduct complaint despite the Rugby Players’ Association saying it will liaise with them over the charge levied towards Cipriani, believing a £2,000 fine from his club that was announced on Monday “should close the matter”.
Gloucester are furious with the RFU, claiming the governing body acted only in response to publicity generated by last week’s events.
And they now hope to field him against the Dragons in a starting XV that also includes fellow new arrival, former Bath wing Matt Banahan.
Cipriani will face a three-man disciplinary panel at an undisclosed venue in Bristol.
The hearing comes just two months after he made his first England start for a decade, featuring in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
The England captain acted on medical advice by taking an extended beak from the game after becoming symptomatic in the wake of the Six Nations defeat by Ireland in March.
After five months out, he is ready to resume playing in the expectation of being available for the Premiership opener at Gloucester on September 1.
“I’ve been training to play this Friday and to compete for a spot in the team. If I do get into the team and play, then I’ll be in contention for the following weekend,” Hartley said.
Hartley suffered the third significant concussion of his career at Twickenham on March 17, resulting in the recommendation by specialists to rest with no timeline established for his return.
BREAKING: Dylan Hartley and Alex Waller made co-captains of Northampton Saints. pic.twitter.com/nJj6TZHQat— RugbyInsideLine (@RugbyInsideLine) August 20, 2018
Having been knocked out against France in 2016, he expressed fears that another head injury could end his career, but the 32-year-old hooker has made a full recovery.
The last few weeks of a summer in which he has married his long-term partner Joanne have been spent on a reconditioning programme that has placed him on the brink of making his comeback.
“The summer has been really good. I’ve had a good balance between reconditioning, training, family and social life,” Hartley said.
“Things got done and it was good family time. I’ve had a really well rested summer. Obviously I got a bit agitated watching some rugby on TV, but it was good time out that gave me some perspective to reset goals and things like that. I feel pretty well rested.”
Hartley was replaced by Owen Farrell as England skipper for the June tour to South Africa but is expected to be restored to the role for the autumn series against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
He will co-captain Northampton alongside Alex Waller over the coming season.
McFarland took up his head coach duties on Monday after the Irish and Scottish unions finally reached agreement over his early release, almost four months after he was named as Jono Gibbes‘ successor.
McFarland’s contract as Scotland assistant coach had been due to run until January and Best feels he has arrived at an ideal time.
While operations director Bryn Cunningham assumed overall charge, coaches Dwayne Peel, Jared Payne, Aaron Dundon and Kevin Geary have continued to prepare the players ahead of their PRO14 opener against Scarlets on September 1.
“It just gives certainty,” the Ireland captain said.
“It hasn’t actually changed a lot of what we have done. We have had that consistency of Jared, Peely and Aaron Dundon with Kevin Geary in there.
“We have worked really hard on the skills with Dan Soper coming in, Peely with his stuff, defence with Jared and we have been pushed hard physically. So we have been able to get all that work done.
“Ye, you always want him in straightaway so he can oversee everything, but in terms of the timing with a week of pre-season and a week to prepare for the first game, and the boys are physically ready to go, it’s just a different mental twist to it.
“He had his first meeting on Monday morning and it was just good to have him there and be around and finally get to meet him.
“I knew him, but for guys who have only ever seen him from the newspaper press release when it was announced, and all the speculation, for them to meet him and for him to sit down in front of the group for the first time was reassuring for everyone.
“Dan didn’t want to come in like a sledgehammer approach. He has used the early part of the week to watch what’s going on from a defensive and attacking point of view.
“We have had that continuity and Dan being Dan and being very thorough, he is seeing how things are done. You want him to add value and not take away from what the boys have done all summer and so far he has done that.”