Planet Rugby

Hartley turns focus to All Blacks

01st June 2014 09:21

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Victory: Dylan Hartley

England hooker Dylan Hartley reckons Northampton's Aviva Premiership title victory is the "perfect warm-up" ahead of taking on New Zealand in June.

The Saints won in the most dramatic of fashions with a try in the last minute of extra-time by Alex Waller to secure a 24-20 victory over Saracens.

And for Hartley it was an ideal send-off for the internationals in the squad, with the celebrations now completed before facing the All Blacks.

"That was the perfect warm-up for New Zealand," said the Northampton captain when referring to the upcoming England tour of his country of birth.

Hartley and the rest of the England players in the final were given a clean bill of health and will fly out to join up with the rest of Stuart Lancaster's squad preparing to take on the world champions.

He immediately set his sights on playing in the second Test against the All Blacks having huffed and puffed his way through 50 minutes in total here.

"Having not played for so long I was happy to come off the bench," he said.

"The selection was proved right and I managed to get 50 minutes so it was a good work out.

"You can't replicate Test rugby but in terms of game time and the intensity this was just what I needed before going to New Zealand. It was the perfect warm-up. I'd love to play in the Second Test but that's not up to me.

"It's an unbelievable feeling to win this title and for the club to be English champions. We always felt we could do it, and now we have after so many setbacks over the years.

"I was always confident we would do it. Even at the end when things were tight but all credit to Alex Waller. What a try to score. He had to go off with a cut face and come back on again. So he's a hero.

"We have an unbelievable squad and this certainly makes up for last year when things didn't go so well! Now we can go and celebrate big time. I'm taking the trophy to bed with me tonight!"

Another England player, flanker and Saints captain Tom Wood is also hoping to make his mark in New Zealand after leading Saints to a remarkable double, having won the European Challenge Cup last weekend.

"This is a special moment for everyone connected to Northampton so far and now I can't wait to get to New Zealand for the next challenge," said Wood.

"I am tired now after such a such a physical match but I will be fine for England. I will think about that once I am on the plane because we have some celebrating to do."

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