Dylan Hartley: Northampton have spent the season proving all our critics wrong

 

It is difficult to imagine Northampton suffering from a persecution complex – who in their right mind would pick on such hardened street fighters as Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and the fearsome Samu Manoa? – but they are certainly sick to the back teeth of being written off.

"It's been the story of our season," said Hartley, their captain, after completing a final training session ahead of this weekend's Aviva Premiership decider at Twickenham. "We've spent the whole campaign trying to prove people wrong. And guess what? We've reached the grand final."

In order to take the next step and actually win the thing, Hartley's side must see off their nearest and not-so-dearest from Leicester – local rivals who are positively smothered in showpiece experience, having reached this stage for the ninth year in succession.

As recently as a fortnight ago, few would have given the Saints a prayer. Now, in the wake of their comprehensive 27-13 dismantling of Saracens in the semi-final, aficionados of East Midlands rugby expect a proper contest.

"We'll need to summon the same kind of emotion, the same intensity, as we brought to the game at Saracens," said Hartley, "and I can guarantee it will be there.

"We have so much to play for: we've had an up-and-down season, we've been given the underdog tag and we have players who will leave the club after this game. We've been through thick and thin together, so the prospect of playing in front of a full house at Twickenham and winning a trophy is huge. I've had some good times here, but losing four Premiership semi-finals and a Heineken Cup final was heartbreaking. I don't want this to be another heartbreak game."

Leicester will almost certainly begin the match with six freshly-anointed British and Irish Lions on the field. Hartley is the only Northampton man to have made the cut for the forthcoming tour of Australia. As the hooker's direct front-row opponent will be Tom Youngs, the man currently keeping him out of the England starting line-up and one of the favourites to make the Lions' starting XV, there could be all manner of fun and games at scrum time.

"I'm going to Twickenham to win a trophy for the club," Hartley said. "But yes, there's a sub-plot involving me and Tom. If I go well against him, I'll put my hand up in front of the Lions coaches. It's a chance to push myself forward. I think a few people believe I'm in that squad as the third hooker, but everyone has their time in the sun and I'm here for the long game."

One player who knows what it is to score the match-winning try in a Premiership final, the former Leicester and England centre Dan Hipkiss, has announced his retirement from the sport at 30 after failing to recover from a serious shoulder injury.

Hipkiss, whose last-ditch try against Saracens took the Tigers to the 2010 title, joined Bath the following year and had recently signed a contract extension at the Recreation Ground.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment