June International Tours

Dylan has had time to change : Martin Johnson


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England manager Martin Johnson has insisted uncapped hooker Dylan Hartley won’t prove to be a disciplinary liability should the New Zealand-born front-row make a Test debut against the Pacific Islands.

The 22-year-old Hartley was banned for six months last year after an eye-gouging incident involving Wasps and England flanker James Haskell.

And the Northampton forward’s temperament was again called into question when, during last Sunday’s Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat against Saracens, he appeared to deliver a stiff-arm challenge on scrum-half Mosese Rauluni.

Saracens director of rugby Eddie Jones, Australia’s coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final to an England side captained by Johnson, was critical, saying: “If he’s doing it in a club game like this then you’d worry about him in a Test match.”

However, with England just over a week away from starting their home international season against the Pacific Islands at Twickenham on November 8, Johnson said Hartley’s previous record would not count against him in terms of Test selection.

“I am not concerned about Dylan. He had a long suspension and he is aware he may have picked up a bit of a reputation but we are not concerned about it,” Johnson said at England’s training headquarters in Bagshot, south-west of London, on Thursday.

“We trust him to be involved in the squad. If we didn’t trust him then we wouldn’t have him here.

“He is a young guy who is enthusiastic and sometimes that goes the wrong way and over the top. I know what that’s about, and the key is to control it,” the former Leicester and British and Irish Lions lock added.

“If I thought he was a liability to this team then he would not be in this squad. He is a young and enthusiastic guy who wants to play rugby. He was banned for six months and that’s that.”

Someone else who has found himself in the spotlight, albeit making news as much in the front pages as the sports pages of Britain’s national newspapers, is Wasps outside-half Danny Cipriani.

The 20-year-old’s relationship with actress and model Kelly Brook has provided plenty of fodder for the gossip columns. This has obscured, in some quarters, Cipriani’s remarkably quick recovery from an ankle fracture sustained in May.

Now, with England star Jonny Wilkinson once more sidelined through injury, Cipriani is set to start at stand-off at Twickenham a week on Saturday.

“Initially we thought Danny would not be fit before the New Year but the guy worked incredibly hard to get himself back,” Johnson said.

“That didn’t just happen by accident. Everything I have seen of him suggests he works very hard at being a good rugby player. He doesn’t get treated any differently to anyone else here.”

Meanwhile Johnson insisted his decision to release 2003 World Cup-winning team-mate Josh Lewsey among eight players sent back to their clubs earlier this week did not mean the end of the Wasps full-back/wing’s Test career.

England, with Nick Abendanon out with a toe injury and Mathew Tait struggling with a hamstring problem, appear to have difficulties at full-back in particular.

“With the injuries we have had, anything could happen. Josh will be back with us next week training and we have four internationals,” Johnson said.

England, after their match with the Pacific Islands, face Australia (November 15), world champions South Africa (Nov 22) and Tri-Nations title-holders New Zealand (Nov 29) on successive weekends at Twickenham.

Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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