England captain Dylan Hartley explained how he has been working on his tackling technique and that he feels ready for action at the Six Nations launch.
Hartley’s six-week suspension for striking Sean O’Brien came to an end this week, although he will not have a chance to gain any match fitness playing for Northampton Saints in the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Saturday.
The 30-year-old has instead been proving his fitness in training with England, who are currently in Portugal in the midst of their training camp.
“I’m confident. I feel fresh, fit, focused. The last Six Nations and pre-Australia tour I had some time out beforehand and knew where I needed to be,” Hartley said.
“I think Eddie gave me a seven out of ten last week, maybe an eight out of ten this week. It was tough yesterday.”
The England captain has used his time off to work on improving his tackle technique with England defence coach Paul Gustard, and he outlined where those tweaks had been made when speaking to the media.
“With my tackle technique, I have been working very hard on that with Paul Gustard. We always want to tackle low but there are times when you come in as the second man where low isn’t the option,” he explained.
“For me it’s about my arms, bringing them tighter to my body and following through my shoulder. We have to adapt as players with the sanctions changing.”
Hartley revealed that after the ban he thought he had put his job as England captain in jeopardy. The period since, missing six weeks worth of games, has been a time to take stock.
“I always reflect,” Hartley stated.
“This group is an aspirational place to be. We know the journey the team is on, wanting to be the best team in the world. To be part of that is a privilege.
“I’ve had a good reality check and I’m in a priviliged position, both as an England player and captain.
“I’m aware in this environment every week that if you don’t perform in training or games that your place is up for grabs. It is never a given.”