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Thursday 17 April 2014

Hartley hoping for face-off with Best

England hooker Dylan Hartley would relish the chance to lock horns with Ireland opposite number Rory Best again in a bid to lay down a marker for Lions Test selection this summer.

Hartley is pushing hard for a recall to the England starting line-up for Sunday's Six Nations clash in Dublin, having returned from injury via the bench in the win against Scotland.

Should Hartley and Best come face to face on Sunday, Lions coach Warren Gatland will be watching the hooking battle intently, as the duo are the leading contenders to start against Australia this summer.

Hartley not only views every Six Nations contest as a Lions selection head-to-head – but also every training session following the rapid emergence of Tom Youngs as a top-class rival.

Hartley recalls with a grimace the last time England went to Dublin in the Six Nations, when Ireland blew away their dreams of winning the Grand Slam with a ferocious performance. Although most of the England team has changed since that 24-8 defeat, Hartley will make sure the newcomers understand just what awaits them at the Aviva stadium.

"It was the intensity which stood out," said Hartley. "I remember the first scrum of the game and we got rolled, they got a big shunt on and the crowd goes wild.

"If you look at how they started the game against Wales at the weekend, they put a big emphasis on intensity. We need to front up emotionally. We will need to be right in the head."

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has named a 25-man squad for the game, but the starting line-up and bench will not be confirmed until today.

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