Dylan Hartley insists England are forging a new identity inspired by history that has transformed playing at Twickenham into an exhilarating experience.
When Chris Robshaw’s team sit in the changing room putting the finishing touches to preparations for today’s QBE International against Argentina, they will be surrounded by reminders of past glories. Each player will observe a list of names beneath his peg detailing a proud lineage of notable former England internationals in their position. Standing in the tunnel as the Twickenham pitch beckons, they will be greeted by the words “Hundreds before you. Thousands around you. Millions behind you” and good luck messages from supporters.
The refurbishment, initiated by head coach Stuart Lancaster, was completed in time for the autumn series against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand. Hartley insists the alterations have changed the experience of playing at Twickenham as England seek a sixth successive victory at the arena that will stage all but one of their matches at the 2015 World Cup.
“The new changing rooms are in your face – bright, white and shiny,” the Northampton hooker said. “But when you look closely the history is there and it’s pretty special. There’s one wall that has decade after decade of who played that year and their Test cap number. That is special.
“My name is on there and you look right back at the start and see the first-ever England players who are on there.
“There is a peg where you sit and mine says Dylan Hartley. Then there is a list of the other great hookers to have played there. It makes you connect with the shirt and makes you realise you are not just playing a game of rugby, that you’re part of something.”
He added: “There are certain things we have brought in as a group that are special to the group. It brings you tighter together and you get an emotional connection with the players around you. Now it’s not pressure we feel at home, it’s excitement. We have turned a corner there.
“We thrive on it. That negative feeling of pressure, it is not like that now. We thrive on being at home – ‘this is Twickenham, this is our home ground, we are going to control what happens here today’.”
The expectation is that England will win comfortably against Argentina and extend their triumphant sequence to nine victories in ten matches, although the forward-orientated Pumas will offer stiff resistance.
“There’s loads of talk about what Argentina will be bringing, which is nice as it sounds like it will be a really forward-dominated game. That’s perfect,” Hartley said.
England: M Brown (Harlequins); C Ashton (Saracens), J Tomkins (Saracens), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), B Foden (Northampton); O Farrell (Saracens), L Dickson (Northampton); J Marler (Harlequins), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Bath), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Vunipola (Saracens). Subs: T Youngs (Leicester), A Corbisiero (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), G Parling (Leicester), B Morgan (Gloucester), B Youngs (Leicester), T Flood (Leicester), A Goode (Saracens).
Argentina: L Amorosino (Oyonnax); H Agulla (Bath), M Bosch (Saracens), S Fernandez (Bayonne), J Imhoff (Racing Metro); N Sanchez (Bordeaux), T Cubelli (Belgrano Athletic); M Ayerza (Leicester), E Guinazu (Bath), M Bustos (Montpellier), M Galarza (Worcester), P Albacete (Toulouse), P Matera (Leicester), J F Cabello (Tucuman), J M Leguizamon (Lyon). Subs: S I Valdez (Tucuman), N Lobo (Free), J P Orlandi (Bath), M Carizza (Western Province), B Macome (Tucuman), M Landajo (Casi), G Tiesi (Newcastle), S Cordeno (Regatas).
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