Dylan Hartley creating a club culture in England's camp - but won't support Wales against Ireland

Singing in the shower with Owen Farrell and punishing the use of mobile phones with press-ups are just two of the innovative ways Hartley has helped to create a strong club culture with England

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Songs in the shower with Owen Farrell, watching matches with the rest of his squad and punishing the use of mobile phones with press-ups to encourage them to talk to each other. It’s fair to say that Dylan Hartley is slowly revealing himself to be the people’s captain, such is his belief that a strong culture among the England side can be the secret to their success.

Eddie Jones has taken the plaudits for the 16-match winning run under his tenure, but credit must also go to the no-nonsense skipper. Hartley has kept Jamie George at bay, kept his discipline – for England, at least – and kept the side winning, which by all accounts is what matters most.

But he’s also done this while encouraging something of a club atmosphere among the international side, something that is extremely difficult to do when the most time they spend together consecutively is less than two months.

Hartley has also been happy to talk about the things his squad are doing the help breed that attitude. He was open about his bond with Farrell ahead of the fly-half’s 50th cap, revealing his love of singing in the shower, while his latest revelation about how England will watch Wales vs Ireland on Friday – as they did the two other matches ahead of England’s clash with Italy – shows what Hartley and his side are trying to achieve.

“I think it’s great,” Hartley said. “Just sit there on Saturday, after you’ve done your team run, after you’ve done all the hard work in the week, you sat down with your chicken goujons, maybe a bit of chocolate – some of the guys have chocolate, I don’t – and just actually watch some rugby as a spectator is really nice. So tomorrow [Friday] night, we’ll look forward to that.

“It won’t be compulsory but the whole squad will. And that’s a good thing. Culture is a good thing.”

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Hartley and Farrell are good friends off the field (Getty)

Another good thing for England would be a Wales victory over Ireland, which would then open up the chance for the defending Six Nations to retain their crown with a game to spare should they beat Scotland the following day, given they will head into the final weekend with an insurmountable lead in the table and just the Grand Slam left to play for.

But Hartley won’t yet doth his Wales cap, such is the rivalry between the two nations, and despite the clear advantage that a Welsh victory would bring, he just couldn’t bring himself to say it.

“I’m pretending I don’t know how the points sit,” Hartley added. “It’s relevant to us because we want to win against Scotland and then next week. We can only control what we can control, and that’s Scotland on Saturday.

“We just worry about ourselves.”

England haven’t had to do a lot of worrying during Jones’s time as head coach, but they were at panic stations in the first half against Italy last time out. Conor O’Shea and Brendan Venter set Italy out to remove the ruck by not engaging in contact, which not only left England scratching their heads but also experiencing one of the least physically draining matches they have ever played in.

Jones’s response was to draw a line under the performance against Italy, something he has been keen not to talk about because “we didn’t play any rugby”, and Hartley added that a gruelling weeks’ training in Oxford followed to ensure that the players are ready from the get-go this weekend, having gone four weeks without a seriously physical encounter.

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Hartley believes England learned from 'Ruckgate' (Getty)

“[It was] Real good application from the guys in Oxford,” said Hartley. “The effort put in was second-to-none. And that is a good characteristic to have, working hard when there is not a game at the weekend. Coaches pushed us and the team reacted well. This week has been all about sharpening the axe for Scotland.

“[We] Covered off ruckgate in one meeting. The big learning we took was to deal with situations presented, adapt sooner rather than later, find ways to understand what the ref is doing, what the other team is doing. Coaches pushed us physically, not with a stick and we worked bloody hard. Lots of teams would have a week off but we certainly don’t have a week off. A lot of good prep was done before Monday this week.”

Hartley will hope that it all pays off this weekend, as he could become the first captain in the Six Nations era to secure back-to-back Grand Slams. But before that, England must see off Scotland in the most eagerly anticipated Calcutta Cup clash for quite some time, and it might just come down to one single moment that was bred off the field to decide what happens on it.

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