Hartley fired up by bid for Euro place
NORTHAMPTON are out of the running for a top four play-off spot but Dylan Hartley is determined to ensure Champions Cup rugby for next season with wins from the last three league games of the season.
After narrow defeats to Leicester and Wasps in their last two outings, Saints have fallen off the pace, sitting seventh in the table, level on points with Quins in sixth.
But England skipper Dylan Hartley reckons they are due a big scalp ahead of their clash against Saracens in Milton Keynes today.
“It might not be a top two finish like we would have liked at the start of the season but we’ve got something to drive for and that’s top six at the moment,” Hartley said.
“We’ve got it all to play for, it’s a good place to be. If we were further down the table we could have just clocked off but this is a good place to be. It keeps us working for something.
“Those narrow defeats are the tale of our season. To not quite take games when they’re on offer. With Leicester we blew three try scoring opportunities and like last week, shipped in about nine tries.
“We’re not too far off but there are some underlying issues that needs to be rectified for us to improve and we’ve got a huge carrot dangling in front of us. A top six finish is a priority for us so that we’re playing top-flight rugby in Europe next year.”
Taking on high-flying Sarries this time out doesn’t make things easier for Northampton but Hartley takes confidence in the fact Saints always seem to be up for the fight when they face the champions.
He added: “I’ve got a lot of respect for the Saracens team, a lot of them are my international teammates. I see how hard those guys work and how diligent they are with England and I’m sure they’re no different at their club.
“I’m fully respectful of them and the challenge that they pose. If anything for us looking up the table and the teams above us we can learn from these guys.
“We’ll always get up for Saracens, we always have good games against them.”
Hartley said it would be a “bonus” to be selected for the Lions tour when head coach Warren Gatland names his touring party this week.
“I’m not building myself up for possibly what would be a setback,” Hartley added. “I’m happy where I am at the moment. If it comes it is a bonus. If not then I have got other things to play for and other things to look forward to.”
In the thick of the battle: Saints’ Dylan Hartley