Heineken Cup
Hartley hopes to soothe heartache
ESPNscrum Staff
October 31, 2011
Northampton Saints captain Dylan Hartley holds the Heineken Cup, Heineken Cup launch, Twickenham, London, England, October 31, 2011
Dylan Hartley is hoping that he will get his hands on Heineken Cup again next May © Getty Images

Dylan Hartley believes that Northampton have the mental fortitude to recover from their shocking capitulation in last season's Heineken Cup final clash with Leinster and go one step further this time around.

The Saints, who kick off their European campaign with a daunting trip to Limerick to face Munster, were beaten 33-22 at the Millennium Stadium in May after blowing a 16-point half-time lead over their Irish opponents.

Speaking at the 2011-2012 season launch at the venue for next year's final, Twickenham, Hartley admitted that the heartbreak he and his team-mates experienced in Cardiff still weighs heavily on his mind. However, he believes that Northampton, after a summer in which they made a number of significant signings, including Ryan Lamb, Tom May and George Pistil, are now better equipped to lift the most prestigious trophy in club rugby.

"It's not the pain that motivates you. You're in the competition because you want to win it, but that's not easy," he said.

"Our run to the final last year was great and was difficult, but you have to play for 80 minutes and we didn't do that. We were tired because we'd had the semi-final against Leicester the week before, but we were still well in front and we threw that away.

"We threw away the Heineken Cup and that hurts. Afterwards there was this feeling of exhaustion and disappointment. But look at Munster. They lost two finals before they won one. We're a young squad and have our best years ahead of us.

"We haven't lost anyone, instead we've added more depth which is probably what we needed on last year. We were fighting on all fronts, playing Premiership games to qualify for the top four alongside a Heineken Cup run.

"It's mentally tiring getting yourself up for games every weekend at that stage of the competition. If you find you've got competition for places, you can swap people in and out and that's good for the club."

As one of the England players who made headlines for all the wrong reasons during the Rugby World Cup, Hartley is also hoping to use the Heineken Cup to put the memory of his country's disastrous campaign behind him.

However, the hooker admitted that he and his international colleagues at Franklin's Gardens are struggling to readjust after returning from New Zealand.

"We were disappointed to get knocked out early. The best way for me to get over that is to play for Saints," he said. "I've played three games. I'm moving on and the Heineken Cup will help with that.

"I'd be lying if I said it's easy coming back after a World Cup. I was Eden Park one week and Bridgend the following week. I wouldn't say it was a comedown, it was just different. I've found my feet again."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.