Saints hooker Hartley still has World Cup chance

Dylan Hartley has not played since Saints beat Worcester at Sixways in December
Dylan Hartley has not played since Saints beat Worcester at Sixways in December

Dylan Hartley still has a World Cup chance after England boss Eddie Jones revealed the Saints hooker has 'not given up hope' of returning from injury in time for the tournament.

Hartley has not played since Saints beat Worcester Warriors at Sixways on December 21.

The 33-year-old has been battling a knee problem, which Saints boss Chris Boyd labelled 'grumbly'.

And Hartley is now in a race against time to show Jones that he will be fit enough to play a part in the World Cup, which begins in Japan in September.

He was omitted from the training squad, which was named last week, but remains in England's plans.

"Dylan has been a great character and a great captain for the team," Jones said.

"It is personally disappointing for him that he cannot get himself fit but he is still endeavouring to get there.

"He has not given up hope and we will keep monitoring his progress."

Saints trio Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Piers Francis are all part of England's World Cup training squad.

Ludlam is uncapped but has impressed after a superb season at Franklin's Gardens.

"You are always looking for a couple of 'X-factor' players that come through later and are in form and excite the squad and the fans," Jones said.

"Lewis and (Bath wing) Ruaridh (McConnochie) have done that with outstanding performances for their club. They both have great desire and good character."