Planet Rugby

Hartley eager to face New Zealand

11th November 2013 05:26


Dylan Hartley England training

Raring to go: Hartley

England hooker Dylan Hartley hopes his performance against Argentina will earn him a starting spot against New Zealand on Saturday.

New Zealand-born Hartley was man-of-the-match in England's 31-12 win over the Pumas, their second straight victory in a November campaign that started with a 20-13 defeat of Australia.

The Northampton forward was at the heart of England's dominant first-half display having been given a chance to start by national coach Stuart Lancaster in place of rival hooker Tom Youngs.

Now Hartley is aiming to be involved from the start when world champions New Zealand, who've won all 12 of their Tests so far in 2013, return to Twickenham - the ground where England beat them 38-21 in stunning style last year.

Reflecting on the Pumas match Hartley, who will win his 50th England cap if he features against New Zealand, said: "I enjoyed the game. It was good to be back and to contribute to a good first-half forward performance was satisfying.

"At the end of the tunnel I knew there was a starting place against the All Blacks available, but I didn't want to get too caught up in that.

"It was more about doing my job in the team and I think I did that," added the 27-year-old Hartley, born in Rotorua but who joined Northampton's academy in 2005 after finding his opportunities as a then loosehead prop limited at home.

England were 24-6 up at half-time against Argentina, the kind of situation in which New Zealand would have likely gone on to win by a crushing margin.

Yet only a try shortly before the finish from replacement back row Ben Morgan extended their lead.

Hartley said England needed to play "the perfect game" if they were to beat New Zealand, 26-19 winners over France in Paris on Saturday,

"The All Blacks have been fantastic on recent form and come here with a big number one badge on," he said.

"There's no doubt they'll want revenge. They're a proud nation and a proud team and will be looking for payback.

"We'll have to be up for it and play the perfect game -- for the whole game."

Meanwhile Hartley's club and Test colleague Tom Wood would like Red Rose wins over the All Blacks to stop becoming collectors items ahead of the 2015 World Cup in England.

In 35 Tests dating back more than a hundred years, England have beaten New Zealand on just seven occasions, suffering 27 defeats with one draw.

"We want to get to the position where we don't declare national holidays every time we beat them. We want it to be a regular occurrence," explained Wood.

"We want it to be a level playing field. We want to be considered their equals or better than them. We want it to be that when anyone comes to Twickenham, they are underdogs, not us.

"You have got to hand it to the All Blacks -- they are still the benchmark in world rugby. They have got threats all over the park and strength in depth, but we are getting there," insisted Wood who, unlike Hartley, played in last year's corresponding fixture.

"I'm not going to make wild statements about us being better than the All Blacks. We have still got a point to prove. We have still got to back it up week in, week out.

"But I definitely think we are going in the right direction and developing something with a bit more substance and sustainability."

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