“To fall at the final hurdle… I wake up most nights thinking about it. It doesn’t sit well with me, but I have come to terms with it,” says Hartley
By Michael Kelleher
Last Updated: 11/09/19 10:54pm
Former England captain Dylan Hartley admits his omission from Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad is still causing him to have sleepless nights.
The Northampton hooker was left out of England’s 31-man squad for the tournament, having failed to overcome a serious knee injury he suffered in December.
Hartley, who has 97 caps for England, had hoped to bow out of international rugby on a high in Japan, and is still coming to terms with being denied the chance to do so.
“When the World Cup squad was announced, it was almost like I’d died – friends getting in touch and seeing if I was OK,” Hartley said.
“Ultimately, the way I looked at my whole rugby career and how I wanted it to pan out, and how it was going, was that this would have been the ultimate send-off, the dream finish to an international career.
“The reality is you pick up an injury.
“For four years we have talked about winning the World Cup with Eddie, and I have led that group, been a part of that journey, so to fall at the final hurdle… I don’t know the feeling.
“I wake up most nights thinking about it. It doesn’t sit well with me, but I have come to terms with it. You have to crack on.”
Hartley believes England have an excellent chance of being the team that lifts the Webb Ellis Cup in Yokohama City on November 2, and that his omission even tougher to deal with.
“I genuinely think England (will win), they’ve got as good a chance to go and do it,” he said.
“The worst thing for me is to think if my leg was not [injured] at the moment I could be there with them, winning a World Cup. It is hard to swallow, really.
“I hope they go and win. I’ll get on and be a glory supporter – remember me guys?
“I’ll be hanging off the side of the open-top bus, in my 97th (appearance) shirt.”
Hartley has not featured at any level of rugby since representing club side Northampton in a Gallagher Premiership clash with Worcester almost nine months ago.
The 33-year-old admits he aggravated his knee injury by attempting to rush back for the World Cup.
“I tried an (initial) approach with my knee, a very aggressive approach, because I was given some deadlines to meet, and the aggressive approach did not work,” said Hartley.
“I basically ended up in a worse position for trying to come back too early. Ever since that happened, I knew I wasn’t going to make the (World Cup) deadline.
“It was around the start of the camps, when they first got together around the start of July. I tried getting back for that and basically put myself in a bit of a hole physically and mentally.”
Hartley recently spent a fortnight in Philadelphia working with strength and conditioning specialist Bill Knowles, whose previous clients include Andy Murray, and feels that treatment was beneficial.
“Everyone asks when you are coming back but I have learned that you do not put a time frame on it, because when you are 10 days out from it and you know you’re nowhere near, you can play these games in your head and it’s tough,” Hartley added.
“At the moment, I’m building my tolerance to be able to run every day and participate every day.”