Hartley surprised by captaincy offer - but delighted to extend deal at Saints
Dylan Hartley says he is delighted to have extended his contract at Saints.
And the hooker admits it was something of a surprise to have been handed the captaincy for next season.
Hartley’s current Saints deal was due to expire next summer, but he will now be sticking around beyond that term.
He returns to the role of skipper having relinquished the armband back in 2015, when Lee Dickson took over.
Tom Wood picked up the baton from Dickson last summer, but Hartley will be the man in command during the forthcoming campaign.
And the 31-year-old, who has led England to back-to-back Six Nations titles as well as series wins in Australia and Argentina since becoming Red Rose captain in January 2016, said: “It was an easy decision to commit my long-term playing future to Northampton Saints.
“After completing my 11th year at Franklin’s Gardens last season I was delighted when the club suggested extending my time here.
“I’m very proud to be offered an opportunity to continue playing and being part of such a great club.
“When Jim (Mallinder) approached me about taking on the captaincy I was surprised. For me the timing is right and it is certainly a challenge I want to take on.
“I’m very passionate about the Saints and would love to see us competing for trophies.
“We have some valuable experience within the squad that will be driving the team forward this year.”
Hartley made 12 appearances in total for Saints last season as they finished seventh in the Premiership and were eliminated at the pool stages in both the Champions Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup.
And he is now hoping for a better showing from the club this time round.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Woody (Tom Wood) for the way he led the team last season,” Hartley added.
“He plays with his heart on his sleeve and body on the line and he did a fine job in what was a frustrating season for us. His support to me will be invaluable, as will his presence on the field.
“I’d also like to thank the Saints supporters for the way that they have been behind both me personally and the team as a whole throughout my time here.
“We all appreciate the time and effort they put in to following us home and away, and hopefully we will all enjoy success together this season.”