Wales boss Gatland hails Saints skipper Hartley

TOP PLAYER - Dylan Hartley has been praised by Wales boss Warren Gatland (picture: Sharon Lucey)
TOP PLAYER - Dylan Hartley has been praised by Wales boss Warren Gatland (picture: Sharon Lucey)
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Wales boss Warren Gatland has heaped praise on Saints skipper Dylan Hartley - four years after questioning his temperament.

The England hooker is expected to start in Friday night’s eagerly-awaited Six Nations opener against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

Gatland was critical of Hartley ahead of the corresponding fixture in 2011, claiming “he has always got a lot to say” and that “he went to pieces” during a club game against Leicester.

Gatland, though, selected Hartley for the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia - a trip he subsequently missed due to an 11-week suspension after he was sent off in the Aviva Premiership final for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes.

“Dylan brings an edge to the game,” said Gatland. “That’s what makes top players.

“I spoke to Dylan when we were at Twickenham, and we had a good chat about the Lions. I would have loved to have worked with him.

“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for him. He’s got an edge and is competitive, and he has that will to win. He has improved his game and is a quality hooker.

“I had a few words about him a number of years ago, and he shoved them back in my face and responded brilliantly with a fantastic performance (against Wales).

“As a coach, you have got to admire and respect that. He is a hard competitor, a winner and uncompromising.”