Six Nations: England captain Dylan Hartley 'cannot remember trophy lift'

England captain Dylan Hartley lifts Six Nations trophy
Dylan Hartley lifts the Six Nations trophy after Saturday's 31-21 victory against France in Paris

England captain Dylan Hartley says he cannot remember lifting the Six Nations trophy after a blow to the head.

The 29-year-old hooker was taken off after being knocked out by the knee of France's Uini Atonio, before returning to lift the Grand Slam winners' trophy.

"Trying to piece the night together I can't remember certain things so it's almost like a drunken night," he said.

"I'm looking at photos, trying to remember things. I can't remember the post-match presentations."

He told BBC Radio Northampton: "If you look closely there's this strange man always lurking about 10 metres in the background - that's actually the England rugby doctor who's keeping a close eye on me."

Hartley added he is "taking it day-by-day" and is unsure of when he will return to action following the injury.

Dylan Hartley lies on the floor after the clash with Atonio
Dylan Hartley lies on the floor after the clash with Atonio

Hartley's redemption

Captaining a victorious England team to five wins from five in the Six Nations marks a fantastic turnaround for Hartley, who was left out of the World Cup squad altogether after being banned for a headbutt.

Then England coach Stuart Lancaster said Hartley had "let himself and everyone down", having picked up the sixth suspension of his career.

After Eddie Jones replaced Lancaster at the helm following the disastrous World Cup, the Australian not only brought Hartley back into the fold but named him Chris Robshaw's replacement as captain for the Six Nations.

And the Northampton Saints forward subsequently led England to their first Grand Slam since 2003.

"You never think your international career is over," said Hartley. "You use setbacks as motivation, but sometimes things are out of your hands.

"Luckily Eddie saw something in me that he liked and gave me a shot. I'd like to think I've repaid that faith.

Dylan Hartley
Hartley celebrates with the trophy following the victory in Paris

"We draw a line under the Six Nations now, and we focus on the next job, which is Australia.

"So for me, I want to get back playing for my club because I want to be selected and on form for that summer tour."

Life as England captain

Hartley will have been used to dealing with the press in his role as Northampton captain for six years - but as England skipper the level of media attention steps up another notch.

"The media is not too bad when the games start going," said Hartley.

"The hardest thing were the media launches, comparing them to the Premiership and European Cup launches it was a whole different level.

Dylan Hartley, Rory Best and Greig Laidlaw
Dylan Hartley, Ireland captain Rory Best and Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw prior to a press conference during the Six Nations launch

"I did two days of media non-stop. I didn't train with the lads and copped a bit of flack for that but the level of scrutiny, interest and support is a million times more than we get at Saints - and we get a good level of scrutiny, interest and support here."

Thanking Northampton

Hartley has been somewhat of a controversial character throughout his career, missing a combined total of 54 weeks through suspensions for offences ranging from gouging and biting to abusing a referee.

But during his spell as Northampton captain he helped Jim Mallinder's side win a Premiership title and finish as 2011 Heineken Cup runners-up, prior to leaving the role last summer.

"I think maybe the captaincy role at England probably stemmed from those guys sticking by me," he said.

Dylan Hartley, Jim Mallinder, Ben Foden
Hartley celebrates with director of rugby Mallinder and Ben Foden following Northampton's 2013-14 Premiership final win over Saracens at Twickenham

"Every time I've had some sort of setback, it would have been easy for Jim or the board to say 'we probably need to go in a new direction', but they've always stuck by me and supported me in the role.

"Six years of captaining experience is down to their decisions, but I'd like to think I've repaid some of that trust as well - we've had a pretty good six years, I've just had a few individual setbacks along the way."

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