Wales v England, Six Nations, Millennium Stadium, February 4
Hartley fired up by Gatland barbs
February 3, 2011
Dylan Hartley runs on to a pass at England training © Getty Images
England hooker Dylan Hartley admits he has spent ten days stewing over Warren Gatland's public attack ahead of the Six Nations opener against Wales.
Wales coach Gatland made the questionable move of firing up Hartley by branding the Northampton captain a choker and questioning his temperament on the biggest stage.
The verbal barbs could set off Hartley into losing his discipline when England meet Wales at Millennium Stadium on Friday - and that may have been their intention - but the combative hooker has vowed to use Gatland's criticism as motivation to help win the game for his country.
"If anything it's given me ten days to really prepare myself and ten days to really motivate myself," Hartley said. "The motivation is there already, it's a big enough game and I want to do well in an England shirt.
"It's given me plenty of warning of what's to come and time to prepare. It was a bit out of left field but I suppose you just have to deal with it. These things happen and it's happened. Like I said, it's just given me time to prepare and look forward to a big one on Friday."
Hartley's disciplinary record means he has long been used to having his temperament questioned off the field and tested on it. In 2007 he was banned for six months after being found guilty of gouging James Haskell twice during the same club match.
Last November, New Zealand were furious when Hartley escaped any sanction for a forearm challenge on All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Hartley was sin-binned during the Saints' Heineken Cup encounter with Cardiff Blues last month for fighting with his opposite number Gareth Williams.
"I suppose this is the first time someone has come after me in the press like that but I've had plenty of people try and test me on the field since the obvious four years ago," he said. "I think I've dealt with it well enough. Its ten days warning of what's to come. I've dealt with it before, people coming after me. Cardiff are a physical team who threw the kitchen sink at me and I'll be prepared for the same again."
Gatland also picked on Hartley's poor line-out performance in Northampton's Aviva Premiership defeat to Leicester, claiming he "fell apart" at Welford Road.
"There's no hiding, a few throws went wayward but Leicester are a good team and had obviously done their homework on us," Hartley said. "You certainly don't turn into a bad player overnight. It was just a blip for me. Things have gone well since then. I had a 90 per cent (line-out success rate) against Castres the next week so I was pretty happy with the way I bounced back.
"The line-out drills have gone well all week and (on our training camp) in Portugal we got a lot of the basics right, which was quite nice. We're confident in our drill. Just like any other team they will try and put pressure on us there, and at scrum time, kick offs and set piece. That's no different to any team."
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