Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Hartley to face goading from Wales

Dylan Hartley must steel himself for intense "goading" from Wales when England open their Six Nations campaign in Cardiff, according to Graham Rowntree.

Forwards coach Rowntree claimed Hartley has "a lot of credit in the bank" with the England management, despite his latest red card pushing his career suspensions to 50 weeks.

Hartley was hit with a three-week ban after his red card for elbowing Matt Smith in the game with Leicester in December, adding to a rap-sheet including eye-gouging, biting, punching and swearing.

England will face a pressure-cooker atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium on Friday, February 6, with Rowntree admitting England are helping Hartley face up to his catalogue of indiscipline.

"He has to deal with other players goading him, he has to deal with it and we have got to hold his hand and help him through that," said Rowntree.

"We sit down with him all the time in camp and say 'what are you thinking, what is happening in the game' - just help him through it.

"There is no other way to do it."

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder told the RFU disciplinary hearing that led to Hartley's latest ban he could understand why outside observers might question the wisdom of him awarding the 28-year-old hooker a new three-year contract.

Rowntree accepts Hartley's wider reputation in rugby needs rebuilding, but pledged England will help the New Zealand-born front-rower in that quest.

"Absolutely: outside and referee perception," said Rowntree.

"We are not going to cast him aside. We can't hide away from it - internally we will just help him through it.

"Opponents will have seen his record and potentially will try and encourage him to do something wrong.

"A lot of players have to deal with that. My old club captain (Martin Johnson) had that all the time it is well documented as a lot of top players do.

"You have to deal with it.

"I don't encourage our players to do it (sledge opponents) but if it happens to you, you have to deal with it.

"You have got enough to worry about - just get on with your game."

Head coach Lancaster warned Hartley he was on his "last chance" after his 2013 Premiership final dismissal for swearing at referee Wayne Barnes.

That particular ban cost the abrasive hooker his place on the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia.

"Never," said Rowntree, when asked if Hartley's England future had been in jeopardy.

"It was a good headline mind. He has got a lot of credit in the bank has Dylan.

"It (the idea of a last chance) has never been mentioned.

"Stuart (Lancaster) will sit down with him, I have spoken to him already.

"Having worked with him and seen how he has developed and grown up and seen the impact he has on the group - I am big fan."

Wales boss Warren Gatland accused Hartley of cracking under pressure before England triumphed 29-16 in Cardiff in the 2011 Six Nations.

Gatland later apologised for his comments, but Rowntree believes Hartley's composed showing that night proves he has the ability to keep his cool.

"Gatland called him out before that game didn't he and he apologised to him afterwards - I was there when he did," said Rowntree.

"His composure in that game, I actually thought he was man of the match in that game the way he dealt with that pressure, the way he got on with his job - it was a good victory for us that night.

"There has been a lot said about Dylan but what you can't hide away from when you have worked with him as I have is what he brings to the group in terms of leadership.

"His set piece is immaculate. In that autumn series our line out was 94 per cent - the highest it has been and a lot of that is down to Dylan's throwing."


From Belfast Telegraph