Dylan Hartley: England can be even better against France than in statement Six Nations win over Ireland

Dylan Hartley has challenged England to validate Steve Borthwick’s new era against France in Lyon tonight.

England stunned double Grand Slam-hunting Ireland with a 23-22 win at Twickenham last weekend, in a major statement victory.

Now the Red Rose men will close their Six Nations campaign against Les Bleus, and former captain Hartley believes a new standard must now be maintained.

“England had been telling people they were training well, and trying to make it come together,” Hartley told Standard Sport.

“When you’re not from that environment I think it’s hard to understand how hard they’re trying and how much they put into it, physically and emotionally.

“But the vindication, the watershed moment that this is a proper England rugby team came last weekend. This is the beautiful thing about a sport and the levels needed to achieve that.

“Now to make sure it’s not a flash in the pan they need to go and do it all again in Lyon this weekend. So the challenges just keep coming.

“It’s the last game of the tournament, how do they want to end the tournament, how do they want to reflect on it? How do they want to go into the summer tour against Japan and the All Blacks.

“They want to finish on a high, they are seven weeks into the camp and training now, so they will be firing on all cylinders after last weekend. It’s going to be a great spectacle, and I think they can get better again.”

England are on a high after ending Ireland’s Grand Slam bid (Getty Images)
England are on a high after ending Ireland’s Grand Slam bid (Getty Images)

New England skipper Jamie George’s mum died of cancer just 10 days before the Red Rose side’s Six Nations clash in Scotland.

George played on amid the family grief, opening up publicly about his very personal suffering. The Saracens hooker has always worn his heart on his sleeve but has taken that to new levels in recent weeks.

England were deflated in 30-21 defeat in Scotland, but Hartley believes the win over Ireland will have provided George especially with a much-needed boost.

“I saw Jamie before the game pitch-side in Scotland, I kind of thought ‘leave him alone he’s into his pre-match routine and he’s got a lot going on’,” said Hartley, speaking on behalf of

“But he came over to me, gave me a big hug and it made me emotional, and I was thinking ‘how’s this guy going to go and play rugby?’

“But rugby’s an emotional game, right, and you’re always looking for drivers and he’s been through an awful lot personally. He knows rugby and from experience routine and going back to what you know is good.

“And I think just the win over Ireland is personal vindication for him as a captain. All you want to do is win, represent, make people proud.”