England must seize chance

England coach Eddie Jones and captain Dylan Hartley

England coach Eddie Jones appointed Dylan Hartley captain for the Six Nations

England must seize the chance to win the first silverware of the Eddie Jones regime when they meet Wales on Saturday, says captain Dylan Hartley.

England will take the Triple Crown if they win at Twickenham, but after four successive second-place finishes in the Six Nations Hartley wants more.

“The older guys are worried about walking away without winning anything big,” said the 29-year-old hooker.

“We’re running out of time. I want to leave with something substantial.”

Hartley will win his 70th cap at the weekend, but while he was part of the team that won the Six Nations in 2011, that came after a chastening and heavy defeat in Dublin.

England have won just one Grand Slam in two decades, while Wales have won three in the past 10 years alone.

However, Jones’ side go into the match top of the table with a 100% win record, one point ahead of Warren Gatland’s men with two matches remaining.


“It’s talking to the young guys about not just drifting through this opportunity we’ve got now,” Hartley added.

“The time is now for them to win something. Don’t wait five or six years, because you might not ever get the chance.

“We’ve been runners-up for the last four years, so we were lacking something minuscule – it may be that mental edge.

“At the time 2011 was weird, an anti-climax. We’d been thrashed by Ireland – and then we got given the trophy.

“When you’ve been in and out of an England shirt like me, when you look back at things, what are you going to say you’ve achieved?

“At the time when we won that, I didn’t feel I enjoyed it. Was I too young? Was I too immature? Or was it because of the loss? So I want to make sure we win something and I enjoy it.”

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Northampton Saints’ Hartley has played under four different England coaches, and believes the current regime is pushing the squad harder than ever before.

“You go from game to game, and we play rugby every week, so it’s hard not to plod along.

“What we’ve got to realise it that it’s two months of sacrifice and hard work, and the rewards can be huge.

“It’s not squad meetings when we talk about this, it’s catching up with someone in the swimming pool or at lunch, and saying: ‘Are you doing everything you can to be ready for the weekend? Because we’ve got a hell of an opportunity here.'”

And the England captain singled out Saracens second row Maro Itoje as someone who “epitomises” what he and Jones demand from the squad after the 21-year-old made his first start in the victory over Ireland on 27 February.

“I’ve watched the way Maro Itoje trains – the energy and intensity he brings to a session is exactly what I want from my younger players. So when we talk about drifting, he’s definitely not.

“Eddie demands that every time we train we get better. Every time we play we get better – and Maro epitomises that.”

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