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Johnson: Hartley will bounce back

England team manager Martin Johnson is backing hooker Dylan Hartley to give the best possible reply to the verbal attack on him by Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

Hartley was accused of choking playing for Northampton against Leicester earlier this month, and Gatland added: "He always seems to have a lot to say for himself, but we will see what he's got next week. Some of what he said was responsible for Richie Rees being banned for a lengthy period, yet he wasn't prepared to step outside with Gareth Williams when he was invited to do so."

Johnson, whose side travel to Cardiff on Friday week, responded: "It was not particularly subtle and it wasn't unexpected. I'm confident Dylan will be fine and his temperament will hold up."

He added: "Part of being a Test match player is dealing with that sort of thing. Dylan is playing in a team that's competing at the top of the Premiership and is unbeaten in Europe."

Gatland has said he had no regrets about his comments, joking at the launch of the RBS 6 Nations: "We needed to sell a couple of thousand tickets and I am on a bonus from the BBC.

"There's always a bit of spice between England and Wales. We will see how Dylan responds."

On Gatland's outburst, Johnson added: "He's done it before with mixed success to say the least.

"It's not something I've ever done. You are potentially giving ammunition to the opposition. It's something he has chosen to do, but ultimately people will remember the game."

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