Saints star Hartley desperate to complete the job with England

Dylan Hartley is setting his sights on the Grand Slam (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Dylan Hartley is setting his sights on the Grand Slam (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Skipper Dylan Hartley insists England’s work is only half done after being crowned Six Nations champions last weekend.

And the Saints star says he won’t be happy unless his side complete the Grand Slam in France on Saturday evening.

England were confirmed as Six Nations winners last Sunday thanks to Scotland’s victory against France.

And Eddie Jones’s men now head to Paris looking to make it five wins from as many matches in this year’s tournament.

“Captaining England to a Six Nations title is great but I won’t be happy until we are Grand Slammers,” Hartley wrote in his column in The Sun.

“When Eddie Jones asked me to skipper this side (in January) I knew we had the raw ingredients to end four seasons of finishing runners-up.

“A lot was made of my appointment but I’ve never lowered myself to the doubters’ levels. I have opinions of what has been said and written about me but I’ll keep those to myself.

“I play the game for my family, my team-mates, the fans and everyone who supports me.

“If I had ever taken any notice of the noise from the outside I wouldn’t have been able to accept the captaincy because I would have retired from the game a long time ago!”

And he added: “For those of us who have been around for a while, that hurt of not getting over the line in the past is somewhat repaired.

“But that internal disappointment we have suffered can be used to fuel our desire to finish the job and bring home England’s first Slam since 2003.

“The Grand Slam is the cherry on top of the Six Nations cake. If we want to get into a position where we can really challenge the world’s best sides then we need to do the business against France.”

Hartley is well aware of how strong France will be on their own patch.

And he said: “The challenge that France pose is huge for us and it’s up to us to go there and finish the job properly.

“The danger is that we talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.

“We can’t kid ourselves and we will be unravelled pretty quickly on Saturday if we don’t train as hard as we have done, if not harder, this week. So far, I would like to think we have.

“Plenty of people have been in touch with nice messages, but the challenge is to not get caught up in it. The French aren’t going to lay down and let us just win a Slam in their backyard.

“We met on Sunday night and marked the title with a beer. But we’ve all agreed it doesn’t feel like we have won it yet.

“As far as celebrations go, if you can call it that, it was pretty bang-average.

“It’s a job half done at the moment. The only way to become the most dominant side in Europe is by winning in Paris.”

Hartley missed England’s afternoon training session on Tuesday.

But he was named in the team on Thursday morning, with fellow Saints star Kieran Brookes on the bench.

“On Tuesday I missed our afternoon session, but don’t panic — I’m fine,” Hartley said.

“I took part in our heavy forwards session in the morning, then Eddie pulled me and said he was going to rest me in the afternoon.

“I haven’t missed a session since being in the camp and have played a lot of minutes of Test rugby, so it was just a case of keeping me fresh.

“There is method behind the madness. I wanted to be out there with the boys and instead I was working on the bike in the training centre.

“I got a text in the morning from my mum in New Zealand asking if I was OK as it was all over the papers that I missed out. So news travels far and fast!

“But I can guarantee you I am fit and raring to go at the Stade de France.”

Meanwhile, another Saints star will be in international action elsewhere this weekend, with George North lining up on the wing for Wales against Italy on Saturday.

North has scored three tries in his past three matches in this year’s Six Nations, including one in last weekend’s defeat to England.