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.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
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

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?