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 British and Irish Lions Test selection this summer.
Hartley is pushing hard for a recall to the England starting line-up for Sunday’s RBS 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, Lions coach Warren Gatland will be watching 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 Youngs as a top-class rival.
“The Lions is like a big bonus isn’t it? It’s something to work for,” Hartley said. “We have a big chance with England as well. We’d all love to lift the trophy. That in itself is pretty exciting.
“The Six Nations is your stage to perform. Every week it’s your rival (you are up against) – even Tom here with England. I understand that.
“I understand that I’ve got seven weeks to give myself a good crack at it. I’ve got my head round that and I’m highly motivated.
“I have played against Rory Best once this year for Northampton against Ulster. He is a key man in their team. He is key to their success up front.”