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Dylan Hartley is not thinking of British and Irish Lions captaincy

Published 08/08/2016

Dylan Hartley is not thinking of setting a new unbeaten record
Dylan Hartley is not thinking of setting a new unbeaten record

Dylan Hartley has insisted he cannot let himself dream of captaining the British and Irish Lions next summer.

The Northampton hooker has been installed as the bookmakers' favourite to lead the Lions in New Zealand in 2017, after skippering England to a maiden Test series win in Australia in June.

Hartley missed the 2013 Lions tour after receiving an 11-week ban for his red card for abusing referee Wayne Barnes in that year's Premiership final.

Now the bullish front-rower is firmly in the mix to lead the Lions after his fine stewardship of England, not that the 30-year-old is allowing that talk to prove a distraction.

"I am aware of that but I am only judged on my next game for England," said Hartley, on the bookmakers installing him as favourite to captain the Lions next summer.

"I need to make sure I am in that England team for South Africa, I am the form hooker and I am there or thereabouts.

"It's not something I ever set out to achieve.

"I am just happy where I am at the moment, with my focus on this job.

"It is a job that my come at the end of the season but right now my focus is on my club and my country."

England launched their new 2016/17 kit at Twickenham on Monday, the Test version of the Canterbury strip retailing at £90 and the replica version £65.

Hartley admitted next summer's Lions tour is already naturally in the backs of players' minds, but the Saints front-rower insisted England's top stars must not dwell on selection permutations prematurely.

"Most players are conscious of that, and being back in New Zealand on holiday, they are hugely excited about it," said Hartley.

"But break it down. How do you play for your country? You play well for your club.

"How do you play well for your club? You train hard in pre-season, which is now, and you start the season well.

"For me it is all about Northampton, playing well, making sure I hold my hand up, making sure Eddie sees me and I'm in good form, ready to play for England.

"It's (the Lions) a bonus at the end of the season."

England can match the 14-Test winning run set by Sir Clive Woodward's 2003 World Cup-winning vintage with four consecutive victories this autumn.

Hartley revealed however that England's sole focus at pre-season training has been early preparations for their November 12 clash with the Springboks at Twickenham.

"There's no win record without winning the first game," said Hartley.

"So the biggest challenge for us is South Africa.

"And this last three days we've had together has been all about South Africa.

"The message from the coaches is clear: it's get back to your clubs, play well for your clubs, when he or the other coaches are watching they should be able to see who the England players are.

"Every time I play for England I want to win. All our focus now is on South Africa and winning that game.

"I've never beaten South Africa and I don't think anyone in the squad's ever beaten them.

"So there's a massive challenge there for us."

:: Dylan Hartley was appearing alongside his England team-mates at the launch of the new England Rugby shirt from Canterbury #CommittedToTheGame. Visit Canterbury.com

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