Wally says Hartley can be Saints great

STEVE THOMPSON is backing his successor Dylan Hartley to become a Saints great – if the young hooker 'gets his head right'.

Thompson was forced to retire from the game at the end of last season, his number two jersey going to the New Zealand-born Hartley who many believe will be an England regular in the very near future.

The international call may have come for this summer's Test series against South Africa, but the 21-year-old was banned from all rugby after being hit with a 26-week ban for eye gouging in the Guinness Premiership defeat to Wasps.

And while Thompson puts that over-enthusiasm down to the keenness of youth, he urged Hartley not to let any similar misdemeanours prevent him from making a name for himself on the international scene.

"Dylan is the best prospect at the club and he can be their best player if he gets his head right," said Thompson.

"He's been a bit of a silly boy but he's paid for that. I truly believe he's the best talent at the club at the moment.

"The punishment was a bit harsh but it's a lesson for him. I believe he will be the next hooker for England and if he hadn't done what he'd done he probably would have gone to South Africa with them this summer.

"He's got a great future ahead of him and he can be the leading hooker in this country for quite a few years to come."

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