Hartley excited by Sarries and Tigers tests

READY FOR TESTS AHEAD - Dylan Hartley (Picture: Linda Dawson)

READY FOR TESTS AHEAD - Dylan Hartley (Picture: Linda Dawson)

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Skipper Dylan Hartley believes back-to-back clashes with two of the Aviva Premiership’s current top four will be a good barometer for his side.

Northampton sit top of the pile in the Premiership after five wins from their first six games, but they have yet to play perennial title challengers Saracens and Leicester or champions Harlequins.

But that will change in the next two weeks as they host Sarries on Saturday before heading to Welford Road for the big east midlands derby against the Tigers a week later.

And Hartley knows if his men are to be seen as realistic contenders for the league crown, they must get positive results against their main rivals.

“It’s two big games against two good teams,” said the captain. “It will be a good test for us to see where we are in the league.

“We’re sitting at the top of the table at the moment but if we’re going to playing top-four teams we need to stay at the top so it will be a good indication of where we’re at as a team.”

Hooker Hartley is set to head off on England duty next month, with Saints also set to lose other stars to the autumn internationals.

It will provide players on the cusp of the first team with chances to shine and Hartley knows it will be a good test of his side’s squad strength.

“Over the coming weeks we have to call on the squad and players are going to get opportunities with some of the internationals going away, so there will be a lot of chances there,” he said.