Dylan Hartley speaks of England pride as he prepares to face New Zealand
Dylan Hartley has spoken of his pride in the England shirt as he prepares to face the country of his birth.
Last Updated: 15/11/13 10:51pm
The Northampton hooker left hometown Rotorua as a teenager and made his full England debut in 2008, qualifying through his English mother.
He is set to win his 50th Red Rose cap in Saturday's final QBE International and says his adopted land has made him the player, as well as the man, he is today.
"I was 16 when I came here. England made me the rugby player I am," Hartley said. "Anything I have ever learned of value is very much English.
"I can't give you an age when I felt connected to England, but the time when I understood that my life is here now was maybe in my early 20s.
"I was fully aware I was going to have a rugby career here and I fully bought into it. You don't just wake up one morning and feel a certain way.
"Playing with the lads I feel a bond with a lot of them, I have played with a lot of them since I was 17 or 18; people like Danny Care and Tom Wood."
Head coach Stuart Lancaster has drawn on events in history to strengthen his players' sense of national identity, with Remembrance Day a topic of discussion in this week's build-up to this fixture.
"A lot is made about the All Blacks shirt, but in the last few weeks we have been reconnecting with the shirt and making it another 10 per cent for us," Hartley added.
"It has always been special and we've always been proud to wear the rose, but I don't think we should be afraid of saying that.
"We talked about Remembrance Day last week and our fallen heroes, the England players who went to war and didn't come back, looking a bit deeper into history
and trying to get an extra 10 per cent when you pull it on."
Hartley and his team-mates have the chance to demonstrate they have developed into a genuine force, while New Zealand are hoping to record their 13th victory of an unbeaten year, fuelled by memories of last autumn's record 38-21 defeat at Twickenham.
"Last year we'd had two tough games against Australia and South Africa, so we had our backs against the wall for New Zealand. We needed a big performance and produced it on the day," Hartley said.
"This year there might be a little bit of expectation over us to perform well, especially with the momentum and confidence we have got from these last two games.
"We are expected to put up a fight after last year. The reality is they are number one and we want to be number one ourselves. We have got to beat them."
Watch England v New Zealand live on Sky Sports 1 from 1.30pm on Saturday.