HART­LEY CLOSER TO

Eng­land cap­tain stands to join squad with Owens in­jured

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON named in the 41-man squad for the Lions tour of Hart­ley’s na­tive New Zealand, along­side Ire­land cap­tain Rory Best and Eng­land’s Jamie Ge­orge.

The com­bined side are cur­rently hold­ing a pre-tour camp in Wales be­fore next week’s train­ing ses­sion in Ire­land.

Their open­ing tour match is against a Pro­vin­cial Union XV in Whangarei on June 3, with the first of three Tests against the world cham­pion All Blacks in Auck­land on June 24.

If Owens, who im­pressed in this sea­son’s Six Na­tions, is ruled out of the 10-match tour, Eng­land hooker Hart­ley would seem to be an ob­vi­ous re­place­ment.

Best, asked about Owens’s in­jury on Thurs­day, told re­porters: “From his point of view, to miss a semi-fi­nal is go­ing to be gut­ting, and you just hope it is not too bad. I hope he re­cov­ers and he is fit to play in the fi­nal next week, or to train with us in Dublin.

“Ken is a fan­tas­tic player. He is very tough and very good around the pitch, makes a lot of tack­les and does not miss many.”

Best added: “He has been very good at the set-piece this sea­son — he is in fine form.”

Mean­while Lions as­sis­tant coach Neil Jenk­ins added: “It’s rugby at the end of the day. Stuff does hap­pen, and play­ers get in­jured.

“Hope­fully, Ken is go­ing to be fine...With a bit of luck, ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be OK for the Lions.”

Hart­ley, capped 84 times, has led Eng­land to suc­ces­sive Six Na­tions titles un­der Aus­tralian coach Ed­die Jones.

The Northamp­ton front row is cur­rently set to lead Eng­land on their two-Test tour of Ar­gentina next month.

Hart­ley, who has missed more than a year of his ca­reer through sus­pen­sion, was picked for the 2013 Lions tour of Aus­tralia but did not make the trip after be­ing sent off in the English Pre­mier­ship fi­nal for ver­bally abusing ref­eree Wayne Barnes and re­ceiv­ing an 11-week ban from the Rugby Foot­ball Union.

Lions coach Warren Gat­land, speak­ing about Hart­ley’s ab­sence from the New Zealand squad, said last month: “Dy­lan is very un­lucky in terms of not go­ing.” AFP

REUTERS PIC

Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions are hold­ing a pre-tour camp in Wales.

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