Lancaster will talk to Hartley

Published: Wednesday 31st December 2014 by The News Editor

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England head coach Stuart Lancaster has signalled his intention to talk to hooker Dylan Hartley after his latest disciplinary misdemeanour.

The 28-year-old Northampton forward has been suspended for three weeks by the Rugby Football Union for elbowing Leicester’s Matt Smith, the fifth ban of his career.

Hartley is a key member of Lancaster’s England squad ahead of next year’s home-based World Cup, and the coach admitted he would be talking to the player ahead of the RBS Six Nations.

Lancaster said: “I have not spoken to Dylan. I did not want to do anything until the disciplinary process was followed through, and obviously he has a ban to serve.

“He knows as much as anyone the importance of on-field discipline. He will have been disappointed in himself to put himself in that position. I will have a conversation with him.”

Lancaster’s comments came as he visited host city Newcastle on New Year’s Eve to officially unveil a World Cup 2015 sign on the Tyne Bridge.

He did so reflecting on a testing 2014, but one which has proved hugely informative as he builds towards the tournament.

Victories over Samoa and Australia in the final two autumn internationals salved some of the disappointment of missing out on the Six Nations title and defeats by New Zealand and South Africa in November.

While the All Blacks, in Lancaster’s eyes, remain the team to beat, he insists as many as eight teams could realistically mount a challenge for glory.

He said: “Every team is going to strive to win – if that’s not your ambition, then there’s something wrong.

“I think the real strength of this World Cup in 2015 is the vast number of teams that can potentially win it.

“Obviously New Zealand are number one in the world and quite rightly so, but if you look across the board there are six, seven or eight teams that have the potential to win. That’s what makes it such an exciting tournaments this time round.”

The Webb Ellis trophy was on show as Lancaster completed his media duties, although he studiously avoided it as the cameras clicked.

He said: “I didn’t look at it!”, before adding with s smile: “I had a glance.”

There is a long way to go before anyone gets their hands on the trophy and big decisions still need to be made.

One of those which will fall to Lancaster is whether or not to include Rugby League recruit Sam Burgess in his plans as he undergoes a crash course in the other code.

Burgess, who joined Bath from South Sydney and has since played at both centre and blindside flanker, remains a work in progress, but his development is being monitored and he could yet be involved for England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds on January 30.

Lancaster said: “We have two more Premiership games and two rounds of Europe to go before we name the squads.

“He has made a tremendous start in the sport. Everyone’s expectations are probably too high in terms of expecting someone to learn the game straight away.

“But from what I have seen – I watched him the other night when he played for the A team, and I think he is doing really well. We need to give him time and make a decision near the time.

“We would certainly see him and trust Bath in terms of what they are doing with him, the way they are developing him. I have a meeting set up with [Bath coach] Mike Ford soon.

“Sam is learning the game, so we will see.”

Published: Wednesday 31st December 2014 by The News Editor

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