New era at Saints has helped Hartley to feel like a teenager again

Dylan Hartley says he feels like a 19-year-old again (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Dylan Hartley says he feels like a 19-year-old again (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Dylan Hartley says he feels like a 19-year-old again thanks to the changes at Saints this summer.

As promised, Chris Boyd has brought a new broom to Franklin’s Gardens, sweeping away plenty of long-serving players and mixing things up on the management team.

Previous director of rugby Jim Mallinder departed last December and since then, there have been wholesale changes at Saints.

Only Alan Dickens, who is now defence coach, and Phil Dowson, who has replaced Dorian West as forwards coach, remain on the management side of things.

And the playing squad has undergone similar surgery, with the likes of Stephen Myler and Ben Foden having headed for pastures new.

It is a new era at Saints and Hartley, who has not played a competitive game for the club since January due to concussion, is delighted to be part of it.

The hooker, now co-captain alongside Alex Waller, made his long-awaited return to action in the pre-season match against Glasgow Warriors at the Gardens last Friday.

And ahead of the Gallagher Premiership season opener against Gloucester at Kingsholm on Saturday, he has spoken about how nice it is to have a fresh feeling at Saints.

“I feel re-energised coming back into the club, knowing there’s a new regime here,” said Hartley, who was given 20 minutes from the bench last weekend.

“Seventeen players have left, a lot of coaches have gone so there’s a whole new air about the place.

“I felt like a 19-year-old coming back in on my first day of Academy training.

“There’s that kind of nervous energy about the place and now that Chris has turned up, he’s put his mark on things and that learning process starts again.

“Chris speaks a different rugby language to what I’ve known.

“To work with Jim and Nobby (West) over the years and Johnno (Martin Johnson), Lanny (Stuart Lancaster) and now Eddie (Jones), then to have a Kiwi coach now is something completely different for me so I’m enjoying learning.

“I’ve had a good pre-season with the team and I’m in a good place to compete for a spot in the next fortnight.”

Hartley’s most recent competitive match was for England against Ireland during the Six Nations in March.

He was forced to miss the final couple of months of the season and the summer tour of South Africa after being advised to take a break due to his concussion.

But he is now back in action and available - and he appears to be hungrier than ever.

“I’ve had my own sort of build up but I’m relishing the start of the season and being involved in a new era at the club,” Hartley said.

“I didn’t want to miss out on being involved with this rebuild process and the summer off has revitalised me.

“I’m definitely motivated to kick on.

“We’re a well organised team, we’ve got clear understanding and alignment of what we want to achieve on the field. I can’t tell you what that is because I don’t really want to be giving away information.

“One of the key things we’ve hung our hat on is that key clarity and alignment because it will make Saturdays a lot easier if we all know our roles and execute them.”