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Rowntree to warn Hartley


Dave Attwood has warned of the danger of paying too much attention to reputations

Dave Attwood has warned of the danger of paying too much attention to reputations

Dave Attwood has warned of the danger of paying too much attention to reputations

England forwards coach Graham Rowntree is to counsel Dylan Hartley on his discipline knowing the Northampton hooker will be targeted by Wales in Friday's RBS 6 Nations opener.

Hartley's dismal disciplinary record has forced him to miss virtually an entire year of his career - his suspensions total 50 weeks for a range of offences including gouging and biting - and as recently as December he was sent off for use of the elbow against Leicester.

Having served the ensuing three-week ban, he was then dispatched to the sin-bin against Racing Metro in his comeback game for tackling on the ground and later revealed he had focused on his discipline in the build up to the match.

Four years ago Wales coach Warren Gatland questioned Hartley's temperament, asking whether he would "choke and crack under pressure". Instead, the 28-year-old produced one of his finest performances as England prevailed 26-19.

Rowntree takes exception to Gatland singling out a player for his mind games, but he knows Hartley's self-restraint will be tested at a hostile Millennium Stadium.

When asked if Hartley is under extra pressure on Friday night, Rowntree said: "Yes he is. Under pressure from himself as well and we have to manage that.

"It was interesting to hear his comments after the Racing Metro game when he said he prepared really well and yet he still got yellow-carded early doors.

"We and I will be speaking a lot this week about his clarity of thought going into this game, which is what we did four years ago when Gatland called him out.

"I don't like it when coaches do that. I was there when Gatland apologised as well. On that occasion, Dylan was nigh on man of the match. I have every faith in him.

"Determination is what I see in Dylan's eyes. He doesn't go out there to be carded, he goes out there with clear jobs to do. He did it very well in the autumn series.

"He had 94 per cent lineout and was in the middle of all the good work in the set-piece.

"I need to make sure this week he is thinking about those things again - concentrating about the things he has to do for our team, not everything else."

Rowntree insists Hartley, who is outstanding at the set piece and with 61 caps is England's most seasoned campaigner, remains a key part of the team despite his recurring disciplinary lapses.

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"Dylan is a key asset, an experienced asset, and I have worked with him since 2008 in this set-up. He has been in the middle of some big victories, some big performances for us," Rowntree said.

It is experience that will motivate Dan Cole's instant return to the team having recovered from a foot injury after David Wilson was ruled out of the trip to Cardiff with a neck problem.

Cole's last England appearance was against Scotland almost a year ago after neck surgery - to correct a nerve impingement issue similar to Wilson's - resulted in a long-term lay-off.

Rowntree is happy to pitch the British and Irish Lion tighthead into action at the Millennium Stadium knowing the alternative, Kieran Brookes, has 42 less caps after making only six Test appearances.

"We have a massive game on Friday night in Cardiff and we need experience. Caps are important. Dan has been a proven, class prop forward since he made his debut in 2010," Rowntree said.

"He's a Lion. To have a tool like that available is great for me. His knowledge doesn't dissipate while he has been injured.

"Dealing with environments like Friday night comes with experience. It's good to have him around.

"That's one thing Wales have always had under Gatland - they've always had a lot of caps.

"They pick players at an early age and stick with them, so they always have that experience."

Rowntree hinted that Joe Marler will start at loosehead with Mako Vunipola on the bench, the injury-prone Alex Corbisiero missing out due to a lack of game time, and revealed that veteran number eight Nick Easter has been considered for a move into the second row.

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