Hartley considered relinquishing Saints captaincy
August 9, 2013
Dylan Hartley will look to make the right impact on the field this season © Getty Images
Dylan Hartley has revealed he considered stepping down as Northampton Saints captain after he was sent-off in last season's Aviva Premiership final.
Hartley was dismissed just before half-time for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes. His club went on to lose the final against Leicester and Hartley was subsequently handed an 11-week suspension. It was a ban which saw him miss the entire British & Irish Lions tour to Australia and also England's trip to Argentina.
But despite his indiscretion, the Saints have confirmed that he will lead the team for the fifth consecutive season. Tom Wood, the man who captained England in Argentina, has backed the decision and Hartley has vowed to repay the faith shown in him by various coaches but did admit he thought it would be best if he did not captain the Saints this season.
"There was a stage when I sat down with Jim and said, do people want to see a change in captain?" Hartley told the BBC. "I had it clear in my head that I'd probably step down.
"I'd still be a good player, I'd still contribute but I didn't want that hanging over the new-look Saints, because this year we have a squad that can contend. [But] Jim and the coaching team have picked me."
Hartley added: "I'm extremely thankful for the chances I've had with various coaches. With Stuart Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Jim [Mallinder] here at the club - [there are] loyal people sticking with me. But I can't let them down.
"Especially with Stuart, if there's anything else, it's the end of the road for me with England. I understand it can't be blind faith. I let Saints down because I wasn't there when they needed me. That will always hang over me. If we'd had 15 men on the field, we would've won that final."
And Hartley is aware of the wider ramifications of his sending-off but also emphasised his own pain. He added: "I'm not going to go round and apologise to every single supporter.
"I'm very aware that it's the fans we play for and that they're very passionate about the game. But no-one is as passionate as me. I let down my team-mates. I lost the Premiership final and a Lions tour as well."
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