England's Dylan Hartley 'can't remember' lifting 6 Nations trophy after sickening head collision
Lifting a the Six Nations trophy after clinching a Grand Slam ought to be as memorable for the successful captain as witnessing the birth of their first child, but it didn't turn out that way for England's Dylan Hartley.
The infamously combative hooker caught the knee of French behemoth Uini Atonio during England's 31-21 victory in Paris last Saturday night, and Hartley was immediately knocked out.
Nigel Owens vigilantly stopped play straight away, which allowed the England skipper to be carted off the field but Hartley rejoined his team at the final whistle for the trophy presentation.
Hartley appeared lucid as he hoisted the trophy above his head and later walked around the Stade de France, soaking in the atmosphere and taking photos with family members in the stand.
But in an admission that once again highlights the wide-ranging impact that a concussion can have, Hartley says that he barely remembers any of the post-match festivities.
"It's a great feeling to say you’re a Grand Slam winner... I just wish I could remember lifting that trophy in Paris!," Hartley said to The Sun.
"After being knocked out and taken off on a stretcher I can’t remember any celebrations. I can’t remember the trophy presentation, the victory lap or seeing my aunty and uncle in the crowd. It’s a weird feeling so I’ve been looking at a lot of photos to piece it all together and there are bits coming back to me.
"When I came round on the pitch, I tried to convince the medical staff that I was fine and hadn’t been knocked out but they were quite rightly having none of it. Owen Farrell came over and asked if I was fine but he also told me: ‘You’ve been knocked out mate — you’ve gotta go off and get looked after’. It would have been obscene for me to carry on and having seen the video back it was pretty clear I was sparked straight out."
The incident will be a sour end to what was a remarkably redemptive Six Nations campaign for Hartley, who was a noticeable omission from Stuart Lancaster's World Cup squad last autumn.
The hooker picked up a suspension with his club that would have caused him to miss the World Cup warm-up matches and the tournament opener, and the England boss opted to leave him at home as a result.
New coach Eddie Jones took a calculated risk by appointing Hartley as captain - it was a clear break with the well-mannered Chris Robshawian approach of the previous four years, which ultimately yielded no silverware.
But Hartley repaid Jones handsomely by guiding England to their first Grand Slam since 2003 and staying out of any disciplinary issues in the process.
The squad will now look to build on their achievement when the tour Australia for a three-match test series in the summmer.