Johnson backs Hartley to keep cool
January 26, 2011
Martin Johnson has backed Dylan Hartley to front-up against Wales © PA Photos
England manager Martin Johnson is expecting Dylan Hartley to do his talking on the pitch following Wales coach Warren Gatland's verbal attack on the Northampton skipper.
With the teams set to go head-to-head at the Millennium Stadium on February 4 in the curtain-raiser for this season's Six Nations, Gatland opted to throw one of his familiar 'grenades' earlier this week by suggesting that Hartley choked when playing for Northampton against Leicester earlier this month and also that he had a hand in a lengthy ban for scrum-half Richie Rees.
"He always seems to have a lot to say for himself, but we will see what he's got next week," he said. "Some of what he said was responsible for Richie Rees being banned for a lengthy period, yet he wasn't prepared to step outside with Gareth Williams when he was invited to do so."
Gatland joked about his comments at the tournament launch in London on Tuesday, but refused to take a backward step. "We needed to sell a couple of thousand tickets and I am on a bonus from the BBC," he said. "There's always a bit of spice between England and Wales. We will see how Dylan responds."
Johnson remained nonplussed by Gatland's barbs, insisting that they expected the former Wasps boss to engage in mind games prior to kick-off.
"It's about pressure and how people react to it," he said. "Where Wales are, they are under pressure as a team with their performances and not winning a game for a while. Warren's had a blast. He has said a lot of things. It is not particularly subtle. It's pretty obvious what he is trying to do. Dylan will take it in his stride.
"That takes some doing. He's not a young guy any more - he's 20-odd caps and is captain of his club. He will take this in his stride, no doubt. He's [Gatland] done it before with mixed success to say the least. It's not something I've ever done. You are potentially giving ammunition to the opposition. It's something he has chosen to do, but ultimately people will remember the game."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.