Dylan Hartley proud to lead England after change in fortune
Dylan Hartley could never have imagined he would end the season captaining England as he was forced to sit out two months of the campaign.
The Northampton hooker was hit with an eight-week ban for biting in March and could only watch as the domestic season drew to a close. The suspension expired in time for him to join England’s Test tour of South Africa and he now has the chance to complete a remarkable change in fortunes by leading the side out this afternoon.
With regular captain Chris Robshaw having broken a thumb, head coach Stuart Lancaster has handed the captain’s responsibilities for the third Test in Port Elizabeth to the 26-year-old front-rower. When asked if he could have imagined such a turnaround, Hartley said: “Not as captain, no, but I knew I would be playing again. I had two months off so I set goals and targets and I am just happy to be back playing and within the group.
“There was obvious disappointment at picking up the ban but the silver lining to it was I got eight weeks to refocus and train towards something. Obviously I was hugely honoured and privileged to be asked to be captain. I was flattered the coaches came to me and asked, although I am also disappointed for Chris Robshaw. He has led us very well.”
England are hoping to secure a consolation win after defeats in the first two Tests of the three-match series but Hartley believes a victory would go deeper than that. He said: “It is a huge opportunity not only to pick up a huge scalp away from home but to lay down a marker for the autumn Tests coming. Every Test match is a big one.”
South Africa: P G Aplon; J P Pietersen, J de Villiers (capt), W Olivier, B Habana; M Steyn, F Hougaard; T Mtawarira, B du Plessis, J du Plessis, E Etzebeth, J Kruger, M Coetzee, J Potgieter, P Spies. Subs: A Strauss, W Kruger, F van der Merwe, R Kankowski, R Pienaar, E Jantjies, B Basson.
England: A Goode (Saracens); C Ashton (Northampton), J Joseph (London Irish), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton); T Flood (Leicester), D Care (Harlequins); A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Hartley (Northampton, capt), D Cole (Leicester), T Palmer (Stade Francais), G Parling (Leicester), T Johnson (Exeter), J Haskell (Otago Highlanders), T Waldrom (Leicester). Subs: L Mears (Bath), J Marler (Harlequins), M Botha (Saracens), P Dowson (Northampton), L Dickson (Northampton), O Farrell (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens).
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia).
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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