Stick over Ferris bite will help me focus – Hartley

BAGSHOT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06: Dylan Hartley runs with the ball during the England training session held at Pennyhill Park on February 6, 2013 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Alex Lowe

ENGLAND hooker Dylan Hartley insists he will be able to handle the wind-up merchants when he heads to Dublin for Sunday's Six Nations game against Ireland.

Hartley was banned for eight weeks after being found guilty of biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris, who is currently injured, in the corresponding fixture last season.

The Northampton hooker also served a two-week ban for striking Ireland opposite number Rory Best in a Heineken Cup game in December.

Hartley, who is pushing for a return to the England starting line-up after making his return from injury off the bench in the win against Scotland, expects to receive some special treatment at the Aviva Stadium.

But the 26-year-old is confident he can handle it, recalling the way he dealt with the pressure put on him by Wales coach Warren Gatland two years ago.

"I'll be aware that I might get a bit of stick from the crowd. Maybe (from the opposition)," Hartley said.

"If anything, I'll be more focused. I'll compare it to the time I got a bit of wind-up from an opposition camp and it made me focus that little bit more.

"If anyone is (targeting me) it is short-sighted because as soon as you focus your energies on someone else you are not concentrating on yourself."


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 realise just what awaits them in the Aviva Stadium cauldron.

England, he warned, have to be right mentally and physically from the outset.

"It was the intensity which stood out," he said.

"I remember the first scrum of the game and we got rolled, they got a big shunt on and the crowd goes wild. I remember my first carry of the game and I got held in the choke tackle, ball turned over.

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

Despite those bad memories, England have beaten Ireland on each of the last two meetings, including a 30-9 drubbing at Twickenham last season.

"We're expecting a bit of a response after last year," Hartley said. "Last year no one really gave us a chance but we played three away games and got three results. In terms of away rugby, we've done it. Mentally, we'll be okay."