Aviva Premiership: Dylan Hartley out to reclaim England place from Tom Youngs
Northampton captain Dylan Hartley is determined to challenge Tom Youngs for an England place this season.
Last Updated: 04/10/13 11:09pm
Hartley accepts that Youngs is now Stuart Lancaster's first-choice hooker, but he hopes to enhance his claims for a recall with some big performances for the Saints.
Youngs won three caps for the British and Irish Lions in their triumphant series against Australia over the summer, a tour Hartley pulled out of after he was sent off in the Aviva Premiership final against Leicester in May.
Hartley and Youngs will come face-to-face when Leicester host Northampton in the Aviva Premiership this weekend, giving the Saints captain his first chance to outshine his Tigers counterpart.
"My rivalry with Tom is professional and friendly. I don't go around his house for Sunday roast or anything but we're friends," Hartley said.
"I understand my position at the moment. I see him as the front runner for the England two shirt, going on from his performance with the Lions.
"I accept he's first choice at the moment. I'm in the squad, I'm part of the team, but you've got to understand your place sometimes.
"In the same breath I want to play, I want to get back in that team. That's just the way it is. I've got to get my head down and work.
"It's up to me to press my case for a spot. There's a pretty good chance to do that this weekend and in these big Heineken Cup games.
"Leicester are the champions of England, Castres are the champions of France. Two big weeks, two big challenges."
Hartley was suspended for 11 weeks after being sent off for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes in last season's 37-17 defeat at Twickenham.
A hostile reception awaits at Welford Road in the clubs' first meeting since that Twickenham showdown, but Hartley added: "We have forgotten about last season, we aren't looking back at the final.
"It's a local derby, a big game, the fans love it. As a player you are always going to be playing hard and always be passionate.
"We're going away from home to an environment I can imagine being quite hostile. I can imagine I'll probably get a bit of jip from the Leicester supporters, but it's nothing I haven't had before.
"I'll just concentrate on my own game and hopefully we'll get a good team performance."