England skipper Hartley not taking Lions place for granted

Dylan Hartley is refusing to take it for granted that he will be named in the British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand, insisting it would be a "bonus" to earn a call-up.

The England skipper led Eddie Jones' men to a second straight Six Nations championship, but faces stiff competition for places at number two - not least from international team-mate Jamie George.

At 31, the tour could be Hartley's last opportunity to represent the Lions after he was suspended for the Australia series four years ago having been initially been named in the travelling party.

But the Northampton Saints stalwart is keen not to set himself up for a fall ahead of coach Warren Gatland naming his selections next week.

"I'm not building myself up for possibly what would be a setback in my eyes," Hartley told BBC Sport. 

"So I'm taking it as it comes. I'm happy where I am at the moment. If it comes it is a bonus. If not then I have got other things to play for and other things to look forward to.

"For anyone selected I'm sure it's a great honour and I have been previously selected, so, yes, it is a great honour, but to tour I'm sure is a great experience."

Intriguingly, Hartley will go head-to-head with George when Saints face Saracens in the Premiership this weekend.

Hartley says the only thing he can do is play well for Saints and hope that is enough to convince Gatland he should be on the plane to New Zealand.

"It's an uncontrollable," he added. "The selectors have got a pretty difficult job.

"What I can control is what I do this weekend against Saracens, every other player is thinking that as well.

"[Representative rugby] is the bonus of playing well off the back of club rugby or for your international side. It's not my job to worry about selection, it's my job to play well."

Hartley's ban in 2013 came as a result of a sending off in Saints' Premiership final defeat to Leicester Tigers, but he insists that is not a motivating factor.

"What motivates me is embracing what I'm doing at this stage of my life," added Hartley.

"Playing professional sport for a living is a great thing to say and do, the opportunity I've got for my family to provide and set ourselves up.

"I still enjoy it, I love the environment, whether it's the Saints dressing room or England. 

"Setbacks always refocus me, but, ultimately, because I missed out on the Lions in 2013 doesn't motivate me to get up in the morning."

Read Full Story