Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions


Hartley hoping for Best showdown

06th February 2013 18:09


Dylan Hartley scrum v Ireland

Hunting Lions in Dublin: Dylan Hartley

England hooker Dylan Hartley is hoping he will be given a chance to go head to head with Rory Best on Sunday in his bid for British and Irish Lions Test selection.

Hartley started England's Six Nations opener against Scotland last week from the bench having recently returned from injury and is pushing for a recall into the run-on XV for this Sunday's clash with Ireland in Dublin.

The Northampton hooker would relish the opportunity to lock horn with Lions favourite Best, but he must first get picked ahead of Tom Youngs, who is emerging as another potential candidate for Warren Gatland's team.

"The Lions is like a big bonus isn't it? It's something to work for," said Hartley.

"We have a big chance with England as well. We'd all love to lift the trophy. That in itself is pretty exciting.

"The Six Nations is your stage to perform. Every week it's your rival (you are up against) - even Tom here with England. I understand that.

"I understand that I've got seven weeks to give myself a good crack at it. I've got my head round that and I'm highly motivated.

"I have played against Rory Best once this year for Northampton against Ulster. He is a key man in their team.

"They have got plenty of class throughout and he is key to their success up front."

England are now the bookmakers' favourites for the Six Nations title but Hartley remembers all to well the defeat on their last trip to Dublin that ended hopes of Grand Slam.

"You can take points from that experience and there are other players in the squad who experienced that. All we can do is share that with the current crop," said the 26-year-old.

"It was the intensity which stood out. I remember the first scrum of the game and we got rolled, they got a big shunt on and the crowd goes wild. I remember my first carry of the game and I got held in the choke tackle, ball turned over.

"If you look at the way they started the game against Wales at the weekend, they put a big emphasis on that. We need to front up emotionally. You need to be right in the head."

Hartley and Best came to blows when they met in that Heineken Cup fixture at Franklin's Gardens, with the England hooker receiving a two week ban after losing his cool. He was also banned for eight weeks following last year's game against Ireland, after being found to have bitten Stephen Ferris on the hand.

Hartley has been spoken to by the England management of his discipline and he is confident he can keep his cool in the Irish capital.

"The last one [ban] was down to frustration, the team not playing well, myself not playing well and not thinking and just reacting," said Hartley.

"It is a thinking process. I feel like I am in control.

"If anyone is (targeting me) it is short-sighted because as soon as you focus your energies on someone else you are not concentrating on yourself."