Hartley ready to stake his England claim ahead of George showdown
Dylan Hartley is ready to earn his place in the England set-up as he prepares to go head-to-head with primary competitor Jamie George in the European Champions Cup on Sunday.
Hartley's Northampton Saints host George's Saracens - the defending champions - at Franklin's Gardens with England head coach Eddie Jones likely to be a keen observer as the November internationals loom large.
George started all three Tests for the British and Irish Lions against New Zealand earlier this year, and his form has led many to call on Jones to select him in place of current captain Hartley.
Sunday's encounter will mark the second meeting of these two sides this season, after Saracens' 55-24 demolition of the Saints at Twickenham on the opening weekend - a game George missed.
George, yet to start a Test for England, scored a hat-trick in Sarries' win over Wasps last weekend before signing a new deal until 2021 on Thursday, and Hartley is taking nothing for granted when it comes to England selection, despite leading his country to 19 wins from 20 Tests since succeeding Chris Robshaw as captain.
"I'm an aspiring England player. I'm not an England player. If I play well for my club, as an aspiring England player, then good, I'll give myself a good shot," Hartley told reporters.
"Eddie has made it clear that he is not just picking players because of what they have done [before]. It needs to be earned.
"[I'm an] aspiring England captain. If it is on anyone, it is on me to make an example. I need to be playing well. Try and score a hat-trick this weekend!
"We [Hartley and George] have got a good working relationship and again I look forward to the challenge. It is not about me and him. We are team-mates in another environment, so it works."