King backing ‘motivated’ skipper Hartley to inspire Saints at Ospreys

SEEING RED - Dylan Hartley was sent-off for this elbow on Leicester's Matt Smith. He returns to the Saints squad this weekend after serving his three-week ban (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

SEEING RED - Dylan Hartley was sent-off for this elbow on Leicester's Matt Smith. He returns to the Saints squad this weekend after serving his three-week ban (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

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Alex King believes returning skipper Dylan Hartley will be hugely motivated to steer Saints to a vital Champions Cup win at Ospreys this evening.

Hartley has missed his club’s past three matches through suspension after seeing red in the victory over Leicester Tigers at Franklin’s Gardens last month.

Saints V Leicester Tigers. 'Dylan Hartley leaving the field after being sent off. NNL-141222-153023009

Saints V Leicester Tigers. 'Dylan Hartley leaving the field after being sent off. NNL-141222-153023009

Mike Haywood has stepped up in the absence of the England hooker, who was punished for elbowing Tigers centre Matt Smith.

But Hartley is back in the Saints starting line-up this weekend and King knows he will be desperate to put in a big performance at the Liberty Stadium.

“It’s been a frustrating few weeks for him not being able to play but those are the rules and we move on,” said the attack coach.

“He’ll be motivated because he’ll want to put in a couple of big performances before, hopefully, he goes off to the Six Nations.”

And King has no concerns about possible wind-up tactics from the Welsh side, stressing that Hartley will handle the occasion.

“Dylan is now of the age where he needs to take that self-awareness and responsibility,” he said.

“I’m sure he’ll go onto that pitch and not let anything distract him from his rugby performance.

“His team-mates will help him out and make sure he doesn’t give the opportunity for the referee or anyone to make a decision against him.

“It’s time to concentrate on the rugby now and we move on.”