Hartley defends inexperienced back-row

Date published: February 11 2017

Captain Dylan Hartley refuted the idea that England's inexperience in the loose-forwards might cost them against Wales on Saturday.

It is a critical clash for both sides as the winner will put themselves in a good position considering they are two of three sides yet to lose in the Six Nations.

England have Nathan Hughes, Jack Clifford and Maro Itoje in the back-row, sharing a combined total of 20 caps for their country.

Hartley came out in defence of his back-row after speculation they might not collectively have the experience to front up to a weathered Welsh loose trio.

"Maro has been in the team a long time and he's a fantastic player. I don't think experience is an issue for him," Hartley told reporters.

"Nathan and Jack have been around the team for a long time too – Jack went on tour (to Australia) in the summer with us, so he has done his time.

"I don't think experience is going to be a deal-breaker this weekend because you look what is in front of those guys and it is a front five that is pretty hefty in caps."

Meanwhile, England centre Jonathan Joseph is excited about playing in front of a spirited Welsh crowd in the second round of the Six Nations.

The star player and glue that holds the English defence together, will start at his usual outside centre position on Saturday as England look to further their winning streak against Wales.

Joseph believes that the home supporters' excitement will benefit England as well.     

"Personally I quite like it. I like the atmosphere, it spurs me on and gets me going and I think that it does that to a lot of the other boys too," Joseph told Skysports.

"I think you just have to take it in your stride. It's going to be loud and it's going to be noisy."