Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Hartley intent on maintaining focus

Dylan Hartley is expecting a partisan crowd in Dublin
Dylan Hartley is expecting a partisan crowd in Dublin

England hooker Dylan Hartley insists he will be able to handle the wind-up merchants when he heads to Dublin for Sunday's RBS 6 Nations game against Ireland.

Hartley was banned for eight weeks after being found guilty of biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris, who is currently injured, in the corresponding fixture last season. The Northampton hooker also served a two-week ban for striking Ireland opposite number Rory Best in a Heineken Cup game in December.

Hartley therefore expects to receive some special treatment at the Aviva Stadium, but he said: "I'll be aware, that I might get a bit of stick from the crowd. Maybe (from the opposition)," Hartley said. "If anything, I'll be more focused. I'll compare it to the time I got a bit of wind-up from an opposition camp and it made me focus that little bit more."

He went on: "If anyone is (targeting me) it is short-sighted because as soon as you focus your energies on someone else you are not concentrating on yourself."

Hartley recalls with a grimace the last time England went to Dublin in the Six Nations, when Ireland blew away their dreams of winning the Grand Slam with a ferocious performance.

Although most of the England team has changed since that 24-8 defeat, Hartley will make sure the newcomers realise just what awaits them in the Aviva Stadium cauldron.

England, he warned, would have to be right mentally and physically right from the outset.

"It was the intensity which stood out," he said.

"I remember the first scrum of the game and we got rolled, they got a big shunt on and the crowd goes wild. I remember my first carry of the game and I got held in the choke tackle, ball turned over.

"If you look at the way they started the game against Wales at the weekend, they put a big emphasis on that. We need to front up emotionally. You need to be right in the head."

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