Hartley excited by Ireland challenge

  • England play Ireland on Saturday (5pm kick off)
  • Side can win Triple Crown and back-to-back Grand Slams
  • Read our match preview, here

Dylan Hartley says England are relishing the challenge of facing Ireland on Saturday in the final round of the RBS 6 Nations and will 'embrace the occasion' as they look to seal back-to-back Grand Slam titles.

England retained their RBS 6 Nations title against Scotland last weekend and are looking to do likewise with the Grand Slam in Dublin.

And Hartley says England are primed for battle.

“We are ready as a team to take that next step,” he said. “The next challenge is to push ourselves on and make sure our motivation is greater than theirs (Ireland).”

Eddie Jones’ men now have the chance to equal a feat that has only been achieved by three English teams in history.

“We are fully aware of the challenge ahead of us, and at the moment, we are embracing the occasion,” Hartley added."You don’t get these opportunities very often in life."

“Pressure translates to expectation, and that is a great thing. I get excited by that, and the opportunity that presents itself this weekend is an exciting one.”

Hartley and co are unbeaten in 18 Test matches - a run they share with the All Blacks - but the Northampton hooker dismisses record chasing as a conscious collective goal, describing England’s camp as “grounded and humble”.

The 30-year-old speaks of tactical transparency across the squad, explaining that combinations and relationships could not be better, but warns his side must be emotionally ready and not overplay the game this weekend.

“We will embrace and enjoy the occasion, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of it, there is going to be a kick-off, a catch and a carry,” he said. “It’s about being in the moment for 80 minutes, and if you look after that moment for 80 minutes things will take care of themselves.”

Once in a lifetime

Although Ireland sit third in the Championship table - having lost to Scotland and Wales - Joe Schmidt’s side represent a tough test, and remain the only northern hemisphere side to have beaten New Zealand in five years.

And Hartley insists his team are relishing the moment and opportunity to face a quality side with a Grand Slam and Triple Crown on the line.

“You don’t get these opportunities very often in life, especially in rugby,” he said. “So we need to make the most of opportunities when they present themselves, and cease this one.”