Hartley promising aggression
England hooker Dylan Hartley insists he won't ever tone down his combative style.
Last Updated: 09/11/10 6:01pm
England hooker Dylan Hartley insists he will be as aggressive as ever when he starts against Australia on Saturday.
The Northampton skipper has been handed the No.2 jersey in place of Steve Thompson for the Twickenham clash against the Wallabies after impressing off the bench against New Zealand last weekend, scoring his first Test try in a typically bristling performance.
Hartley was arguably fortunate to escape being cited for a foream-led challenge on the All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, but the 24-year-old has promised he will never change his aggressive style of play.
"If you look at hookers across the game, they are confrontational people. You are in the thick of it so you have got to have an edge about you and it is certainly an aspect of the game I enjoy," said Hartley.
"Hookers don't take a backwards step. I don't think you will ever take that away from me. I certainly wouldn't be playing in the front row as a hooker if you did."
Far from being concerned by Hartley's fiery attitude, England manager Martin Johnson has rewarded his performance against the All Blacks with the starting hooker's berth.
Thompson played in the front row on the summer tour of Australia while Hartley was recovering from a knee injury, but the 2003 World Cup winner has returned to the bench for Saturday's clash.
"This is not a gamble. Dylan brings a lot of confrontation energy and that is what we need but he understands it needs to be a force for good and not for being banned," said Johnson.
"That incident could have been taken further by the disciplinary people. It is a balance but I like what Dylan brings to us. He did very well when he came on last week.
"He missed the summer tour with injury but he has come back with a huge amount of enthusiasm. He brings that energy and ball-carrying, his set-piece work is improving all the time and he is maturing as a player."
Hartley believes the captaincy at Northampton has helped that process.
"You mature with age and as a player, when you play more games and bigger games, you learn a lot. The captaincy is a responsibility that has helped," he said.
"I am certainly enjoying the role. Jim Mallinder and Dorian West obviously have a bit of trust in me to do it and I want to repay that trust by doing my best for the club and the team every week.
"I know I am not the finished article but that will come with time and bigger games."
England are expected to once again target the fragile Australia scrum at Twickenham and scrum coach Graham Rowntree has been impressed with Hartley's set-piece development.
"Dylan is a lot more dependable there. It was never really his strength but he has worked hard at it over the last 18 months. He loves scrummaging," said Rowntree.
"We are seeing a lot more of a composed Dylan Hartley in the Premiership. His form can't be argued with and he is leading that Northampton team well."