Tuesday 27 June 2017

'He has done skills sessions' - Dylan Hartley sharpens up tackle technique after Sean O'Brien red card incident

Northampton Saints' Dylan Hartley Picture: PA
Northampton Saints' Dylan Hartley Picture: PA

Duncan Bech

Dylan Hartley has been forced to sharpen his tackle technique in response to the suspension that will leave him desperately short of match fitness for England's RBS 6 Nations opener against France.

Hartley is next week set to be confirmed as skipper for the Grand Slam defence despite being out of action since December 3 after being charged with striking when on club duty for Northampton against Leinster.

The hooker jeopardised his position as England captain after catching Sean O'Brien with a swinging arm from behind and head coach Eddie Jones has identified what he views as a flaw in execution.

"It's about better technique. We have spoken to Dylan and he has done numerous skill sessions to pick it up. He is not the only one with that flaw," Jones said.


"If Dylan has his arms in close, then he does not hit a bloke like that. We are consistently reinforcing good technique."

World Rugby's clampdown on dangerous tackles is forcing players to aim lower in defence, but Jones insists that then creates its own risks against France at Twickenham on February 3 due to their off-loading.

"France have improved in the understanding of how they play. I have been really impressed with them," Jones said.

"If France are playing rucks, they're just an average team, but they are picking guys who want to play above the defence.

"People talk about playing through the defence or playing around the defence and France do that, but now they are also starting to play above the defence, picking a lot of tall, big guys who can get above the defence and create off-loads.

"Once they get an off-load they go back to the old France, with the movement, tempo and rhythm off the ball coming in.

"We have not seen that before and that is where they are dangerous, but as opponents you are better off tackling in the right zone with 15 players than you are with 14 players.

"The inevitability is that the game could free up even more and off-loads come in even more. The other side is that people have to improve their tackle technique."

Visual awareness coach Dr Sherylle Calder has been appointed to England's back room staff to improve the players' peripheral vision, their reaction times and co-ordination.

Calder worked with two World Cup-winning teams in England in 2003 and South Africa in 2007 and Jones credits her with transforming Springbok Bryan Habana into the game's most predatory wing.

"I saw the influence she had on Bryan Habana. If you remember the 2007 World Cup, he was freakish in his interceptions," Jones said.

"Every day he worked for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the session with Sherylle, practising catching the ball and predicting the flight of the ball.

"I remember the try he scored against Argentina in the semi-final - an interception try - he just picked it off brilliantly and he did that consistently and you never saw that from him again. One of the reasons was that he didn't work with Sherylle.

"She will work with all our backs, but predominantly the back field guys."

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