Saturday 24 June 2017

England skipper Dylan Hartley explains the new tackle technique he hopes will keep him out of trouble

England's Dylan Hartley speaks to the media during the RBS Six Nations Media Launch. Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs
England's Dylan Hartley speaks to the media during the RBS Six Nations Media Launch. Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs

Duncan Bech

Dylan Hartley feared he had jeopardised his England captaincy after receiving a third red card of his career that he views as a reality check.

Hartley was confirmed as skipper at the official launch of the RBS 6 Nations on Wednesday and attended the event in south London alongside a bruised Eddie Jones, whose left eye was wounded during a fall.

Northampton hooker Hartley was sent off for striking Sean O'Brien during a Champions Cup defeat by Leinster on December 3, an offence that resulted in a six-week suspension that only ended on Monday.

By the time France visit Twickenham for the Six Nations opener on February 4, the 30-year-old will not have played for over two months and his disciplinary record now consists of 60 weeks' worth of bans.

The enforced lay-off has given Hartley time to reflect on an act that he knows placed his position in doubt.

When asked if he felt he had compromised his captaincy, Hartley said: "Of course. There is a responsibility.

"I worry when I am in the environment. I am aware every week if you don't perform then your place is up for grabs. It is never a given. I have worked hard and feel fit and focused.

"I always reflect and do that most days. Being part of this group is a privilege. We want to be the best team in the world and to be a part of that and feel it is going somewhere is a privilege. I have had a good reality check."

When Hartley was asked if he had changed his game in response to the third red card of his career, Jones interrupted: "He's had 60 weeks off mate, he's a world expert."

On the instruction of Jones, Hartley has been practising his defensive technique during England's training camps in Brighton and Portugal after felling O'Brien with a clothes line from behind.

"The much documented tackle technique - I've been working very hard with (defence coach) Paul Gustard on that," Hartley said.

"We always want to tackle low, but there are times when as a second man low isn't an option.

"It's about for me, my arms, bring them tighter to my body, following through with those, then shoulder, then arm.

"A few technical things, but the sanctions have changed and we're looking after player safety. As players we're seeing a lot more incidents in games now, so we have to adapt."

Hartley was only told he was to continue as captain at the Six Nations launch, according to Jones.

"Well I haven't actually told him yet. Shall I say now? Okay, I'd like to officially announce Dylan's the captain, there you go," Jones said.

"I think he's ready to go. He trained well on Tuesday and has still got a couple of days to go. We're pleased to have him back. It's the continuity of the job."

Jones attended the launch with bruising and bandaging around his left eye, initially joking that it had been sustained while attempting the combat sports England's players have been practising since October before revealing the real explanation.

"First we had judo and then we had MMA, so we're just going through all the martial arts sports to see what effect they have on the body," Jones said.

"I slipped over in the hotel in the morning. My mother always told me I've got to shave and I forgot to shave, I walked out of the shower to get the shaver and this is what happened. I follow what my mother says."

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