Saints star Hartley delighted with England's efforts in Argentina

Saints star Dylan Hartley says he will enjoy his summer holiday all the more for having ended the season by leading England to a 2-0 series victory on their tour of Argentina.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 19th June 2017, 2:55 pm
Updated Monday, 19th June 2017, 4:29 pm
Dylan Hartley led England to another series win (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Dylan Hartley led England to another series win (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

It was mission accomplished for Eddie Jones' youthful England squad as they followed up their opening 38-34 win over the Pumas in San Juan with a more routine 35-25 success in Santa Fe.

"That's what we came to do," said Hartley, who played in all 160 minutes on the two-match tour. "If anything, it exceeded our hopes and expectations because we learned so much about ourselves and the development of the team.

"Overall, to win two games, that was the objective and I think we can be really proud of ourselves.

"They were not the perfect games but we found ways to win them both."

Future Saints back Piers Francis scored his first England try on his first start in last weekend's win.

Charlie Ewels and Will Collier also dotted down for the first time for their country, while scrum-half Danny Care got the other and his half-back partner George Ford underlined his importance to the team with another man-of-the-match performance which included five goals and a timely drop goal.

While experienced players like Ford, Hartley, Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw demonstrated their continuing value to England, Jones handed out 11 new caps and players like Francis, Sam Curry, Mark Wilson and Sam Underhill seized their opportunity to press their claims for a place in his 45-man elite player squad which will be announced in the summer.

"It was an unbelievable effort, to have 20 new players on tour, but the collective effort from all the guys was amazing as well," Hartley said.

"It's been easy to lead this team, the buy-in has been brilliant, I couldn't have asked for a better group. I think English rugby is in a safe place with the depth that we've got.

"I'd like to think Eddie is pretty chuffed as well. We're all very proud of each other. It was a big achievement, against an experienced Argentinian side in the rural parts, in hostile atmospheres. Being on the road has been difficult but we've found out a lot about each other.

"We don't get another game at the weekend so if we had lost (on Saturday), it would have left a bad taste in the mouth, going away the summer holiday. The motive for me was to win (on Saturday) and make sure I leave this team in a good place."

The England team will fly home from Buenos Aires on Monday but Hartley will soon be packing his bags again as he heads back home to New Zealand to visit his family.

The Saints hooker intends to take in the Test matches between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions during his holiday, and is disappointed that he will not get the chance to watch more of his team-mates from the Argentina tour.

Lions coach Warren Gatland caused a stir by calling up extra players from Scotland and Wales rather than England because they were already in Australasia.

Jones has been among the critics but Hartley chose his words carefully when asked if he thought the likes of Ford, Brown and Joe Launchbury ought to have been on a plane to Auckland.

"It depends how you look at it," he said. "George Ford was outstanding (against Argentina).

"It seems they picked guys that are local, but I'm not in charge. I can't say whether it's right or wrong. I've got an opinion, but it's probably best not to say it.

"I think George Ford has grown in stature. His experience has been invaluable to us and we're blessed to have him here with us.

"I thought Mike Brown was outstanding (on Saturday), not just for the eye-catching moment of taking that ball and going the length, (but) the small things in the background. He was brilliant.

"The young guys brought bags of enthusiasm and energy and the older guys kind of brought that leadership. I thought George Ford and Mike Brown epitomised that."