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Hartley: England must kick on now

England are reunited with New Zealand on Saturday, with Dylan Hartley determined to forget the Hamilton hammering inflicted by the world champions in their most recent meeting in June.

When England face the Haka on Saturday, 140 days will have elapsed since their last Test, when Stuart Lancaster's men imploded in a woeful first-half performance at the Waikato Stadium.

The All Blacks, characteristically, took full advantage of a porous England defence and sealed a 3-0 Test series victory with a 36-13 win.

Having made gains in losing 20-15 - a 78th-minute try the difference - and 28-27 in the previous two weeks, it was a step backwards for England, but Hartley is confident they can put it behind them and start moving in the right direction.

Hartley's performance was poor in that third Test as he made his 57th appearance for England, but he is already looking ahead to a key fixture as England's World Cup preparations continue in earnest.

"I just want to forget that game and I am sure a load of the lads do," the Rotorua-born Northampton Saints hooker said.

"Second half we did some good things but we got caught at the start - gave them three tries in 20 minutes.

"If you don't front up early against the All Blacks they are going to run riot against you, so there is learning to take from it.

"But overall, looking at that tour, that is not my over-riding memory.

"The first two games we performed really well and came within a whisker of getting a result.

"That is what sticks out in my mind - knowing that we can compete with the world number ones and give them a good game when we are on our game.

"We performed really well in the first two games and there is no reason why we can't do that next week."

Hartley stayed on in New Zealand's north island for a holiday at home following the series and was surprised to be noticed, but also to receive plaudits from the rugby-mad New Zealand public, who are not known for generous compliments to outsiders.

"Whenever I have been back there before I can go about anonymously," the 28-year-old added.

"That time was different. People kept on coming up and saying 'your team is really good', 'jeez you pushed us close', 'you guys are going to be a real threat come World Cup time'.

"For the Kiwi public to appreciate these things was nice to hear."

New Zealand have beaten England in their last four meetings, since the shock December 2012 win for Lancaster's men at Twickenham.

Their Rugby Championship defeat to South Africa on October 5 was the All Blacks' first since that London loss, ending a 22-match unbeaten streak which featured a draw against Australia in August that denied a record 18th straight Test success.

New Zealand have been together as a group for some time, while England have come together for the first time since June.

Hartley is optimistic, although he thinks performances are more important than the results.

"Hopefully result comes with performance, but performance is key for this whole series," said Hartley, of an autumn schedule which welcomes South Africa (November 15), Samoa (November 22) and World Cup opponents Australia (November 29) to Twickenham.

"This autumn series is going to be a step up. It is getting down to crunch time now. We play Australia this series as well and next time we play Australia it is going to actually mean something.

"(New Zealand) will be a well-oiled machine but they are not invincible. People have run them close, just like we did, and beaten them."

England are still to gain tangible reward for their improvement under Lancaster and three times have finished second in the Six Nations Championship.

Hartley likens the lack of a trophy to his Northampton side, who came close before finally claiming the Premiership title in 2014.

"We haven't peaked too soon," he said. "We are saving it for this year.

"At Northampton we lost three semi-finals three years in a row, we lost the Heineken Cup final, we lost a Premiership final I got red-carded in (in 2013, causing Hartley to miss the Lions tour).

"There are all these team things and these personal things. A few of us suffered things like that which is quite nice to have in the back of your head.

"Experiences like losing in France, losing at Eden Park in the last few minutes (in June) - that can only be good for the team."

The Twickenham crowd has its own part to play.

"Every time I play there the atmosphere gets better and better," Hartley added.

"Come World Cup time it is going to be 10 times what it is now in terms of support and it is going to be crazy, a special place to play."


From Belfast Telegraph