Hartley: Back to square one for series finale

9:06 PM GMT

SYDNEY, Australia — The message from the England camp this week has concerned the dangers of praise and how it can make players complacent, and Dylan Hartley is not taking anything for granted.

Despite having started all eight Tests under Eddie Jones as captain, Saturday’s in Sydney being the ninth, Hartley never feels his place in the team is secure. Far from it.

“I’m only judged on this weekend and how the team performs and the result,” Hartley said. “I know as well as anyone that rugby is week to week so that is how we are judged. I want to be remembered this week as a winner.”

Hartley’s rugby career has been a turbulent one. Moments of silverware-laden ecstasy are tapered by a lengthy rap sheet, a list of suspensions that saw him miss both the 2013 Lions tour and the 2007 and 2015 World Cups. But under Jones he seems to have developed a Zen-like calmness and focus which sees him bypass provocation for the sake of the bigger picture.

Talking about his own development and maturity as a captain doesn’t sit well with Hartley so it’s perhaps better through the eyes of James Haskell: “I’m just glad that in the early months when people are looking for excuses and reasons why they can say it was a bad idea, that he’s come through and just shown that it doesn’t matter what you’ve done and who you are, that having a bit of edge and a bit of personality and a bit of whatever it might be, right or wrong, good or bad, can lead a team.

“He’s been great for us, he’s been great for me. He’s very clear in what he wants from me. He uses his leaders. He understands it’s about senior leaders, not just about him, and he uses us very well. He’s very clear, he’s definitely the boss. And I really like that. That’s what you want from a captain.

“You want someone to go to you and say the buck stops with you. He speaks well and plays with his heart on his sleeve.”

Last week when Hartley became England’s most-capped hooker, it was an event which passed him by with little recognition. The sole focus was on winning the series 3-0 and that team-first mentality is something he brings in when assessing his own spell as captain.

“Eddie and the coaches have high expectations and that filters down to myself, which filters to the senior players and filters to the group, so everyone has high expectations and standards,” Hartley said. “I feel I have developed personally, yes, through the guidance of the coaches and Eddie, and the expectation.”

The eight game unbeaten run, in Hartley’s mind, counts for nothing. As England have said this week, Saturday’s Test is their World Cup final.

“I don’t know what Australia will do,” Hartley said. “I know what we’ll do though; we’ll front up like we’ve done every week. We’re going to be physical and we’re going out to win the game.

“I can’t imagine losing … there is no other way. The team have to win this week. We are just as desperate to win the series and knock it off 3-0.”

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/16479840/england-dylan-hartley-taking-granted-quest-series-whitewash-australia
Hartley: Back to square one for series finale
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