Six Nations 2014: This time I will be ready for Irish, says Dylan Hartley
Northampton hooker out to avenge Heineken Cup defeat to Leinster when England play Ireland at Twickenham
The Ireland coach, Joe Schmidt, currently enjoying life in charge of an unbeaten Six Nations team but perfectly aware that a two-from-two record is not quite the stuff of which dreams are made, believes his third game – against England at Twickenham a week on Saturday – will be the most difficult of the tournament. Dylan Hartley, humiliated by the Irish once this season and in no rush to repeat the experience, intends to ensure that Schmidt's suspicions are proved correct.
Hartley led Northampton in a Heineken Cup game at home to Leinster before Christmas and finished the contest feeling humiliated. "It's not the losing," he said. "It's how you lose. The way we lost that day will live forever in my mind." Even though they travelled to Dublin a few days later and did a proper job on the three-time European champions, it did not go close to erasing the memory of the 40-point shellacking. But it did give the New Zealand-born hooker a clear idea of how England might drive the Irish into the buffers.
"Over in Dublin, we focused on our physicality and on our processes," he explained, "and that approach will feature a lot in my preparation for next week's game. When we lost to Leinster we lacked intensity, but that won't be an issue this time because it's an international match.
"Back in December, a team with an international mindset turned up at Franklin's Gardens and found themselves up against a club side. That won't be the case at Twickenham."
With Hartley on throwing-in duty, the England line-out is barely missing a beat. Yet however settled the hooker may seem in the red-rose shirt, he is the least complacent man in the squad, expecting a renewed threat to his starting position from Tom Youngs even though the Leicester man's line-out stats are nowhere near as impressive.
"I've been in enough situations to know you're only as good as your last game," Hartley said, making reference to the many disciplinary issues that have not only cost him caps, but places in the 2007 World Cup squad and on last year's Lions tour of Australia. "I thought that if I got back here I'd enjoy it and cherish it, which is what I'm doing.
"But you're only one match away from being on the other side of the headlines. Three games ago, I was on the road to redemption from last summer [he was sent off in the Premiership final for calling referee Wayne Barnes a "cheat"] and sitting on the bench. Everyone has his time in the sun and this is mine.
"The moment I sit back and say 'Aah, I've done it', I'll play a bad one and Tom will be back in the side. He's very resilient, he's not going to back down. He'll have a master plan."
On the club front, London Irish reacted to the loss of the wing Marland Yarde to Harlequins by persuading the excellent back-rower Tom Guest to move in the other direction.
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