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Hartley: England against Ireland could be decisive

Hartley: England against Ireland could be decisive

Hartley: England against Ireland could be decisive

Amazon Prime pundit and former Red Rose captain Dylan Hartley believes England’s meeting with Ireland could prove decisive in the battle for the inaugural Autumn Nations Cup.

The Red Rose welcome fierce rivals Ireland to Twickenham in the opening game of the second round on Saturday after both teams kicked off the tournament with victories.

England currently sit top of Group A thanks to the bonus point they secured in their 40-0 win over Georgia, with Ireland one point back following their 32-9 triumph against Wales in Dublin.

And Hartley, who won 97 caps for England, cannot wait to watch the action unfold as part of Amazon Prime Video’s punditry team for the game alongside Ireland’s Paul O’Connell.

“We’re so early into the tournament, I think after this weekend we’ll have a better understanding of who is who and where it’s at,” said Hartley, who made his debut for England in 2008.

“England against Ireland could well be the Group A decider. Both are coming off the back of a win and Ireland pushed very close in the Guinness Six Nations.

“It could have gone their way but it didn’t. They are in bit of form but are lacking experience in key positions so that offers opportunity and we’re seeing Andy Farrell bring in new players.

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“They are going through a transition or at least change from what we know. The thing with that Irish team is for the last decade they have had so many iconic players there.

“You have your Murrays, your Sextons and so on and this provides a real opportunity for [Ross] Byrne and [Jamison] Gibson-Park to really hold their hand up.”

England’s game against Ireland will be followed by Georgia’s trip to Wales on Saturday before Scotland entertain France on Sunday – with all three games live on Amazon Prime Video.

“For me, I think that first weekend everything went the way it should have for the form guide – this weekend could provide some nice talking points,” Hartley continued.

“France going up to Scotland, who have won six games on the bounce and will be very happy with that, the decider between Ireland and England – there is all sorts to look forward to.

“The Wales game is another chance for Georgia to throw a punch. I feel against England there were a whole lot of things that didn’t go their way in terms of how dominant England were.

“They didn’t allow Georgia to throw a punch while Wales have not hit their straps at the moment and might offer an opportunity for Georgia to grab a foothold in the game and show us what they’ve got.

“Wales are desperate for a result and that could come against Georgia. That is the sort of result that can change seasons as sometimes you just need to get that monkey off your back.”

Hartley is part of a star-studded list of pundits assembled by Amazon Prime Video for the Autumn Nations Cup, which is the first international rugby competition broadcast by the streaming giant.

But while Hartley is modest about his career change after his first taste of punditry, the 34-year-old has relished the opportunity to see a whole different side to the sport.

“I didn’t know what to expect going from a rugby environment of meetings, training and playing, but in terms of broadcast we don’t just turn up there on match day and talk,” he said.

“There is a lot of work that goes into the production, a lot like preparing for for a test match. The nicest thing is the people that you meet, not just in front of camera but all the professionals pulling it together behind the scenes.

“People like Gabby [Logan], Bryan [Habana], Flats [David Flatman] are great to work with but the help, professionalism and structure that goes into presenting a show I’ve got newfound respect for.”

And Hartley feels Amazon Prime’s investment in rugby is only a good thing.

“Anyone that wants to put time, money and resources into rugby in my opinion gets a big thumbs up from me – especially in these difficult times,” he said.

“We can’t reinvent the game on the pitch but off the pitch there are different ways to do things and to attract new audiences and to keep it fresh, exciting and appealing.”

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