Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: If it's good for team, it's fine for me: Hartley

Dylan Hartley the favourite in a four-way contest to be England’s rake in second test.

Dylan Hartley says England are prepared to go to another level.  Photo / Getty Images
Dylan Hartley says England are prepared to go to another level. Photo / Getty Images

Rugby players and altruism rarely shape as partners but England hooker Dylan Hartley is doing his best to foster that impression.

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Competition for test places is fierce within the 47-man squad as they eye their next chance to rattle the All Blacks' cage in Dunedin.

Hartley is in a four-way selection shootout for the hooking job and with 55 caps and a pedigree of winning, will be favoured to earn promotion after arriving with the second wave of players from victory in the premiership.

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He has ditched the jetlag, taken in the Eden Park test, learned a new set of lineout calls and settled into training ground auditions with the coaching staff.

If Hartley missed selection this Saturday, he would do everything he could to support the test hooker.

"I would not feel hard done by, it is all about the team, all about the long aim and bigger picture," he said.

Lessons about team above self and the required standard of behaviour have been digested well, so far, by this England group.

They have come to play and learn rather than treating this trip as an end-of-season jaunt.

"All you can do is go out and train and try and make a good impression," Hartley said.

If you showed you could work as a concerted group in practice, that helped your cause.

His credit was good but Rob Webber had been very strong at Eden Park and was one of many who took their chance so Hartley was not sure whether his status was still valid.

"It's about the bigger picture isn't it," he said. "We have to look at all avenues leading to the World Cup and need three players in each position, maybe four. It is all about time, opportunity and getting a go." England had competed strongly in an intense first test start and shown out with their set-piece work, but that inquiry would go up another notch when the series shifted to Dunedin.

Both squads would be sharper with another week's preparation.

For a first-up performance, England had shown plenty, but they were very disappointed not to have claimed at least a draw.

It was laughable to suggest England wanted to slow the game down, Hartley said. Any delays were to get calls clear while completed scrums were becoming commonplace. Hartley pointed out that the clock did not stop when an All Black took some time to re-tie his laces at one lineout. He did not want to see NFL-style timeouts infiltrate rugby.

How did he think the All Blacks would react to their initial 20-15 victory?

"I expect them to look at that performance, and they see themselves as world No 1s - with every right, with their track record at the moment, you know, impeccable - so they will expect a lot more of themselves I'm sure," Hartley said.

"I'd expect them to approach the game with a mindset to step up the intensity, but the good thing is we can go to another level as well, so we are prepared for where it is going to go this weekend."

The Rotorua-born Hartley toured here with England as a 21-year-old in 2008 but did not play a game and just squeezed on to the roster this time.

He fractured his shoulder and spent several months out of the game before his comeback for Northampton a fortnight ago, when they won the Premiership final in extra time.

- NZ Herald

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