CREW PREMIER; ENGLAND RBS SIX NATIONS V FRANCE TODAY, KICK-OFF 5PM Hartley: This Year's Team Is Much Better Than 2012 Vintage That Won in Paris

The Mirror (London, England), February 23, 2013 | Go to article overview

CREW PREMIER; ENGLAND RBS SIX NATIONS V FRANCE TODAY, KICK-OFF 5PM Hartley: This Year's Team Is Much Better Than 2012 Vintage That Won in Paris


Byline: ALEX SPINK Rugby Correspondent alex.spink@trinitymirror.com

DYLAN HARTLEY returns to the Twickenham battlefield today, warning France: "We're so much better than we were last year."

England's firebrand hooker also insists there is no chance of the Red Rose pack being given a French lesson in scrummaging as they were famously in 2010.

"I can't see that happening again," Hartley said yesterday. "Not this weekend, not with the team we've got now."

His words were not meant to wound or provoke - like many of the verbal bullets which have pockmarked this fixture down the years.

Nonetheless they will be seized upon by a France squad desperate to find anything to fire up their hapless campaign.

Hartley, recalled to the No.2 jersey worn for so long by Brian 'scourge of the French' Moore, revealed how he and Owen Farrell had got in the mood for 'Le Crunch' by watching a re-run of last year's game.

The match was played in Paris, where England had won only twice in Six Nations history - and favourites France were put to the sword by Stuart Lancaster's fledgling side.

Hartley said: "We watched the game over a cup of tea and said to each other, 'We're so much better than we were then'.

"We weren't a good team last year, what we had was a drive and a collective determination that they were not going to beat us.

"The detail wasn't in place as to how to run and shape moves, and all these pretty things. We're now a much slicker outfit, unrecognisable from then. If we can marry that same mentality to the detail and attacking shape we've been working on over the last six months, we can definitely get a result."

This time the odds clearly favour England, unbeaten leaders of the championship and the only side still able to complete a Grand Slam. They have beaten France in five of their last six championship meetings and Les Bleus have to go back half-a-dozen games for their last Six Nations win against anyone - their longest winless streak since 1958.

The French are under orders from boss Philippe Saint-Andre to be "brave, daring and unpredictable" and to "take the fight to them".

But that could be a risky tactic if history is any judge. Remember Paris in 1992 when France got in the mood by fighting and crying in the changing room before kick-off - then had two players sent off and lost? …

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CREW PREMIER; ENGLAND RBS SIX NATIONS V FRANCE TODAY, KICK-OFF 5PM Hartley: This Year's Team Is Much Better Than 2012 Vintage That Won in Paris
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