Six Nations
Hartley wary of mental shortcomings
ESPN Staff
January 28, 2013
England's Dylan Hartley is shown the yellow card, South Africa v England, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, June 23, 2012
England hooker Dylan Hartley has had some high-profile disciplinary problems © Getty Images
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England hooker Dylan Hartley has offered an insight into his ongoing battle to keep his temper in check.

Hartley is no stranger to the disciplinary process having served a bans for gouging in 2007 and for biting Ireland's Stephen Ferris during last year's Six Nations. More recently, the Northampton Saints captain was suspended for striking Ulster's Rory Best during a Heineken Cup clash and was landed with a two-week ban that left him free to challenge Leicester's Tom Youngs for the England No.2 shirt for this year's Six Nations battle.

The 26-year-old has retained the faith of the England management throughout his 42-Test career and was even entrusted with the captaincy against South Africa last summer, but his latest indiscretion did not go unnoticed. "It has been addressed by all the coaches - they've had a word with me," Hartley told PA Sport.

"There will come a point when they can't stand by me. They have put faith in me, especially people like Graham (Rowntree) and Stuart (Lancaster) who have said some good things about me. They have stood by me. I understand that trust can only go so far. I wouldn't expect them to stand by me if I continued to break that trust. It has been addressed by the coaches."

Hartley's efforts to control his aggression have been aided by psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters and the use of a colour chart to prevent him acting on emotion but he admitted he allowed his vital pre-match mental routine to slip when it came to the Best altercation.

"This is an ongoing thing for me. It goes back to what Steve Peters told me - that every week has to be the same preparation," Hartley said. "There are all these things you do before a game: analysis, training, meetings - all the rugby stuff - and for me there is the mental build-up. On my recent ban I completely forgot about that. I have a pretty little colour-chart (in my head) which describes this for me. It is to stop you acting on emotion without thinking."

Hartley now has his sights set on reclaiming his place at the heart of England's plans but is aware he has some ground to make up on Youngs who impressed in the autumn when he was sidelined through injury. "I have to come back into the fold, not try too hard, go about my normal ways, train well and be a good influence around the team. It is about reminding him (Lancaster) of me," he said.

"As soon as you don't play it makes you appreciate your time in the shirt more and makes you want to work harder to get back into the shirt. I am quite a motivated person. I do things in my own time that I think might give me the difference; I train hard and, thanks to Tom, I am motivated and I want to get back in...It's healthy competition, which is good for the team."

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