- Dylan Hartley discusses how England culture takes defeats
- “Running out at Twickenham is the best feeling” says hooker
Losing is an integral part of sport at any level - it’s how you react to it that is important. That’s the view of England’s most experienced player Dylan Hartley, surveying the camp after the 19-9 defeat to Ireland in Dublin.
Previously unbeaten, England saw their Grand Slam hopes derailed at the Aviva Stadium, centre Robbie Henshaw’s second-half try capping a performance of breakdown intensity and brilliantly-executed tactical kicking from the hosts.
With the England set-up founded on a culture of honesty and accountability, Hartley explained how a training week based on learning was the right way steel minds and refresh bodies for the reminder of the Championship.
“We’re obviously hurting, and physically also,” said the considered Northampton Saints captain. “No one likes to lose and we really wanted to win this tournament. There’s no reason why we still can’t do that, we’ve just made it a lot harder for ourselves.
“We’ve got a few banged up bodies so we’re doing light training and a lot of learning, looking back at the game and looking to improve.
"You’ve got to hold your hand up when you’ve made a mistake"
“In any rugby environment honesty is there, in every one I’ve worked in anyway. You’ve got to hold your hand up when you’ve made a mistake. In a rugby environment you deal with things there and then and then you move on.”
Hartley was the number one hooker in world rugby in 2014 in terms of hitting lineout jumpers, connecting with 100 of 106 throws for a completion rate of 92 per cent.
Losing one is unusual, losing two in a row, as England did deep in Ireland territory at a crucial momentum-sapping juncture in the first half when the hosts led just 6-3, is virtually unheard of for the 28 year-old.
Accepting of what went wrong but determined to take the right mentality forwards, Hartley explained why the next two fixtures against Scotland and France are so important.
England are still in with a chance of the RBS 6 Nations title – needing a favour from Wales when they met Ireland in Cardiff – and start a long run of 2015 home games up to and including the World Cup.
“I’ve played long enough to appreciate the highs and the lows,” said the 64-Test man. “A loss is a loss, you deal with it and you move on. What’s done is done in 80 minutes on the field, we’ve got to get in a positive mind-set to play Scotland.
“It’s huge for us to be back at Twickenham. We’ve created a fortress type atmosphere there and that’s down to the way team has been playing and massively how the crowd have been supporting us.
"We've created a fortress type atmosphere at Twickenham"
“The last two games are really important for us to sign off this campaign, put ourselves in a position to win the tournament and leave Twickenham in a good place for when we come back for the start of the World Cup.”
Hartley turned down a big money move to France – Montpellier were among his suitors – for after this autumn’s tournament, his desire to be part of an enduringly successful England team outweighing the Euros and sunshine on offer.
He has ambitions which extend far beyond 2015 and in discussing them provided a sincere, passionate articulation of what it means to play for England and be part of the current group.
“I’d love to think that I’ve still got a shot here post-World Cup, you see Keven Mealamu is still playing at 35, Sebastian Bruno played until he was 39,” Hartley added with a trademark smile. “And that’s why I turned down the move to France. For me, being involved in this set-up is everything – it’s the ultimate.
“When you’re injured or in my case banned in the past, it hurts not being here. You want to be involved and I’ll do this for as long as I can because it’s the best thing – running out at Twickenham at the weekend is the best feeling and the biggest privilege.
"This set-up is the ultimate. It hurts not being here"
“The players, the coaching and support staff, the facilities, everything is on the up. We’re all in it together and we’ve been in it together for our fourth season now. The World Cup is going to be huge for us but there’s a plan beyond that as well. We start all over again, we build beyond that and I want to be part of it.”