Hartley backed to respond
England manager Martin Johnson is certain that Dylan Hartley will not be rattled after the recent outburst by Warren Gatland.
Last Updated: 26/01/11 4:50pm
England team manager Martin Johnson is certain that Dylan Hartley will not be rattled after the recent outburst by Wales boss Warren Gatland.
The 24-year-old hooker has been pinpointed as a possible weak link by Gatland, who also criticised Hartley for his part in Gareth Rees' lengthy suspension.
The Wales boss' comments have stoked the fires ahead of England's trip to the Millennium Stadium for the RBS Six Nations opener on February 4.
However, Johnson believes that Gatland is mistaken if he thinks targeting Hartley's supposed frailties will pay-off.
"It was not particularly subtle and it wasn't unexpected. I'm confident Dylan will be fine and his temperament will hold up," Johnson said.
"Part of being a Test match player is dealing with that sort of thing. Dylan is playing in a team that's competing at the top of the Premiership and is unbeaten in Europe.
"That takes some doing. He's not a young guy any more - he's 20-odd caps and is captain of his club. He will take this in his stride, no doubt."
Johnson also thinks Gatland's outspoken tactics could fire his side up and come back to haunt Wales.
"He's done it before with mixed success to say the least," the former England captain said.
"It's not something I've ever done. You are potentially giving ammunition to the opposition. It's something he has chosen to do, but ultimately people will remember the game."