British & Irish Lions
Hartley: I am not here to make up the numbers
May 23, 2013
Dylan Hartley is targeting a Test spot for the Lions © Getty Images
Dylan Hartley will use Saturday's Aviva Premiership final to prove to the British & Irish Lions selectors he is a genuine contender to start the first Test against the Wallabies.
The Saints captain was selected alongside Wales' Richard Hibbard and Leicester Tigers and England's Tom Youngs in Warren Gatland's 37-man squad for trip Down Under. Hartley will have a chance to get one over Youngs this weekend when his Saints come face-to-face with Leicester Tigers at Twickenham.
Hartley lost his England starting place to Youngs this season - but he is not prepared to be written off as anybody's understudy before the Lions even leave for Australia. "I think a few people think I am in the Lions squad to cover the third hooker place (behind Youngs and Richard Hibbard)," Hartley said. "I see this weekend as a chance to push myself forward. I am going there to win a trophy for the club but it is an opportunity to play well and put my hand up.
"With rugby you understand that injuries happen and selections don't always go your way but you have to bide your time. Like Arnie said 'I'll be back'. I am not done. Everyone has their time in the sun and I am here for the long game."
But any thought of the Lions will be put to one side when he leads his side out against the Tigers at the weekend. Hartley was part of the Northampton team that squandered a 22-6 lead against Leinster in the 2011 Heineken Cup final and he is determined to bury that heartbreak with a solid showing on Saturday.
"I have had some good times here but the disappointment of losing four consecutive semi-finals and the Heineken Cup final, and losing them in the fashion we have, is heartbreaking," Hartley said. "You start pre-season with these lads, you all become best friends and you work together. You lose away at Gloucester together and you have the horrible bus ride home.
"But then you win the next week. You go through thick and thin with these lads. The prospect of going to Twickenham with your mates, playing in front of 85,000 and winning a trophy at the end is huge. I just don't want this weekend to be another one of those heartbreak games."
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