- Dylan Hartley outlines the physical Pumas challenge at Twickenham
- “Breakdown, scrummage, maul, it’s going to be a huge challenge” – England hooker
Dylan Hartley believes Argentina’s reliance on a forward-dominated style of play offers him a tailor-made opportunity to hammer home his claims for an extended run in the England No.2 shirt.
The Northampton Saints hooker’s rival for the starting berth, Tom Youngs, has started nine of England’s last ten Tests – excluding the matches in Argentina this summer when he was on Lions duty – but after being handed a chance by Stuart Lancaster, Hartley outlined his suitability for the task.
Seeing The Pumas’ inherent qualities of solidity at set-piece and robustness at the breakdown as mirroring his own points of difference, the 27 year-old said: “I enjoy teams that go after you at the scrum and go after you at the breakdown, I’m a forward so I’ve got to enjoy it.
Photo: Getty Images
“Breakdown, scrummage, maul, it’s going to be a huge challenge there. They’re big physical blokes.
“I’m hugely excited; it’s been a year and half since I started for England. I’ve done the team man thing, the preparation, which I like and I like being part of, but we all want to start, we all want to play from that first minute.
“Going into this I’m confident, I’ve started the season well with Northampton and I’d like to think I can offer something to the team on Saturday.”
New Argentina coach Daniel Houcarde has, as expected, picked a heavy pack, with three props – Marcos Ayerza, Eusebio Guinazu and Maximiliano Bustos – and Julio Farias Cabello, who often plays at lock, at open side flanker.
Relaxed in conversation, belying his effervescence on the pitch, Hartley is relishing taking on the physical challenge they offer with Bath Rugby’s David Wilson by his side – who he describes as a “big old piece of kit”.
Wilson will make only his seventh start in a haul of 30 caps after ousting preeminent tight-head Dan Cole, who has started all but one of England’s last 41 Tests up until the tour to Argentina this summer.
But Hartley says Wilson’s promotion from the bench is richly deserved and a sign of Lancaster’s meritocratic England picking players on form.
“He’s obviously been around the squad for a long time and having the chance to start in such a big game on home turf is a hell of a challenge for him,” said Hartley. “But one he’ll step up to for sure. He’s a big old piece of kit and when you see his form for Bath he’s been outstanding this season. He’s another player who is justified [on form] and has earnt his start.”
Photo: Getty Images
Northampton skipper Hartley swells with pride at the mention of the burgeoning crop of Saints in the England team, with five in the starting line-up and Alex Corbisiero on the bench.
But he reserved a special mention for his front-five colleague Courtney Lawes, whose maturity and new-found composure will see the 24 year-old run the lineout for the second successive Test match.
Hartley said: “I’ve seen Courtney grow into the lineout role this season. At club level he’s always had someone like Christian Day or Mark Sorensen calling the lineout so he hasn’t had to do it. All’s he’s had to do is concentrate on his own game, which he’s so good at; carrying the ball and making big tackles.
“Being thrown into the role over the last few weeks has just added another string to his bow. The more he does it the more he will get confident in himself.
“Having that understanding from club level is brilliant. It’s the same with Lee Dickson; at the scrum on the engagement the hooker has to strike for the ball, so having that relationship with him is certainly something beneficial.”