Hartley is happy to see Saints stars performing on the Six Nations stage

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Former Saints and England skipper Dylan Hartley has given his take on his old club's current crop of Red Rose stars.

The black, green and gold have seven players in England’s Guinness Six Nations squad.

Alex Coles, Tom Pearson, Alex Mitchell, Fin Smith, Fraser Dingwall, Tommy Freeman and George Furbank have all been included.

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Coles, Mitchell, Smith, Dingwall and Freeman all featured last Saturday as England won their opener 27-24 against Italy in Rome.

Smith and Dingwall made their debuts in that match, while Mitchell scored a crucial second-half try.

And Hartley is delighted to see so many Saints players performing so well, especially those who he knows from his time at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens.

"I have a great photograph of me celebrating a Heineken Cup win against Perpignan and a young Fraser is in the background as a fan clapping," Hartley told Instant Casino.

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"Fraser is an old head. He has been around performing for a number of years. He has been chipping away and it is great to see international recognition come.

Alex Mitchell and Fin Smith (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Alex Mitchell and Fin Smith (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Alex Mitchell and Fin Smith (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

"He is not Manu Tuilagi or Ollie Lawrence, a huge physical presence. But he hits hard, reads the game unbelievably well, punches well above his weight and he is very athletic.

"Alex Mitchell was not selected for the World Cup and ended up being the main man. He is that sort of instinctive rugby player we love, a younger version of Danny Care, who knows how to run.

"He is the type of player England needs to provide that spark. You don’t want that totally structured approach. You need someone who can test defences and keep defenders honest around the rucks.

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"Fin Smith has been performing unbelievably well and has his opportunity because Marcus (Smith) and Owen (Farrell) aren’t there.

"Tommy Freeman has been lighting it up and Eddie (Jones) gave him a few games. You’d hope that wasn’t the end of it.

"It is a sign of the class of a player when at least two coaches pick you. I had three, Martin Johnson, Stuart Lancaster and Eddie Jones. That shows I wasn’t just a favourite of one particular coach.

"George Furbank was picked by Eddie. He had a bit of a stinker in France on his debut but will come again."

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Hartley also had some words about his long-time team-mate Courtney Lawes, who retired from international rugby after England's World Cup campaign.

"He could honestly be still in the (England) team, and be captain," Hartley said.

"If he had said to Steve Borthwick 'I want to be captain’ I don’t think Steve would have said no.

"The big fellow could easily come again."

After the win in Italy last weekend, England return home to face Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.

And Hartley is bullish about the Red Rose's chances.

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"Wales are not firing on all cylinders and are going through change," Hartley said. "That should be a good scalp.

"Everyone will be looking at France and Ireland and their World Cup heartache. But if anyone has got heartache it should be England who came third!

"England will quietly go about their business under the radar and will surprise a lot of people."

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