Saints hooker Hartley leads England to Australia whitewash but says ‘there is still a lot to work on’

Dyland Hartley

Dyland Hartley

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Dylan Hartley captained England to a 3-0 series whitewash of Australia in Sydney - and then said he and his team-mates can still get better.

The series win was the first by any England team Down Under, with Hartley’s men making it 3-0 thanks to a 44-40 victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

That win followed a 39-28 victory in the first Test in Brisbane and a 23-7 triumph in Melbourne last weekend before they completed the job on Saturday.

Since replacing Stuart Lancaster in November after hosts England failed to get past the group phase of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, head coach Eddie Jones has guided the team to nine successive wins, all under the on-field stewardship of Saints hooker Hartley, including the Grand Slam in the Six Nations,

Australia reached the final of the World Cup in the winter, but England have since moved above them to second in the world rankings, behind only World Cup winners New Zealand.

But Hartley thinks his side can improve further.

“We have scored 44 points and not played perfectly so there is still a lot to work on,” said Hartley.

“It’s been a long season - we didn’t want to use this as an excuse but it was evident out there.

“Australia threw everything at us, but it was great character by the guys to hang in there and close it out.

“It was our last 80 minutes of the season and I’m proud of how the guys conducted themselves.

“We have made some history. We put everything into it, can be proud of what we have achieved and will enjoy it.

“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to play the perfect game and we can all agree it wasn’t perfect.”

Although England won, it was a tough night for another Saints player in Teimana Harrison.

Handed only his second Test start due to an injury to James Haskell, openside flanker Harrison was taken off after just 31 minutes as Jones decided he needed more bulk in his pack, with another Saints man Courtney Lawes coming on.

It was another display of Jones’s ruthless streak, and it had echoes of the first Test when another Saint, Luther Burrell, was pulled at a similar point due to his defensive lapses.

“It was a gut feeling,” said Jones when asked about the decision to withdraw Harrison.

“Australia came at us hard. They had a big pack - that Will Skelton weighs more than a truck.

“They had big guys in their pack and we missed James Haskell’s physical presence.

“It was always a gamble playing a smaller openside flanker so that why we decided to put Courtney Lawes on a little bit earlier. He gave us plenty of starch, he was good.”