Skipper Hartley says Saints aiming to ‘start big’


DYLAN HARTLEY says Saints will ‘start big’ as they go in search of major silverware this season.

And the skipper has highlighted the success of Harlequins as the example for Northampton to follow in the coming months.

Quins started with a bang last time round, winning their opening 10 Premiership games as they surged to the top of the table.

They refused to relinquish their place at the summit, ending the regular season as table-toppers and beating an understrength Saints in the play-off semi-final on the way to Grand Final glory.

Hartley is hoping his men can do something similar this season and, with no World Cup call-ups to worry about, he wants the senior stars to lead the way.

“Three years now we’ve made the play-offs and we’ve never really gone on and done anything else,” said the hooker.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of the senior boys: Lee Dickson, Phil Dowson, Calum Clark – saying this is the year we really want to hammer it home. We’ve sat down and said this is the year we want to really push for it.

“We’ll start big. We need to start big, don’t we? Because if you look at the business end it’s a long way away and you need to do the little things. “It’s about winning each game each week similar to what Harlequins did. I don’t think they said ‘we want to win this many games’ they would have just gone out that weekend and done it.

“It’s all about preparing for Gloucester away and Exeter at home and I’m certainly looking forward to it.”

Hartley and his Saints team-mates were at a military training camp at RAF Honington last week as their pre-season preparations intensified.

It was a baptism of fire for the 26-year-old, who returned to his club last week after being given three weeks off following England’s tour of South Africa.

But Hartley says he was happy to be back with Saints and is enjoying bonding with the new recruits.

He said: “It’s nice to be back. It’s the balance of having a holiday and a bit of down time but you don’t want to be missing out.

“The lads have been in for six weeks and they’re grafting and working three sessions a day all week. It’s hard work and that’s when the team bonds.

“You make friends over a season and you do make friends and bond with people in sessions like this when you’re working hard together because they’re going through what you’re going through.”