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Wales must sledge England's Dylan Hartley says Davies

England hooker Dylan Hartley has not endeared himself to Welsh players
England hooker Dylan Hartley has not endeared himself to Welsh players

Jonathan Davies says Wales' players must try to intimidate England hooker Dylan Hartley in Friday's Six Nations opener in Cardiff.

Last week, Wales coach Warren Gatland suggested Northampton hooker Hartley could be England's weak link.

And former dual-code star Davies says Wales' players must test that theory.

"When you play, whoever's on the field and it's the first line-out you've got to sledge [Hartley] and put pressure on him all the time," Davies told Scrum V.

"If he misses the first line-out you've got to... have a word, get stuck into him. A bit of sledging is good for banter on the field, keeps you interested.

"There has been a spat. If you get a chance to put a shot [tackle] on him you just smash him and he'll try and put a big hit in on one of the Welsh boys and it'll lift the respective sides."

If Hartley has a nightmare then everyone is going to think Warren is a genius. If it goes the other way then you think he's Warren the wally!

Jeremy Guscott

Hartley has had run-ins with Welsh players already this season in two fractious Heineken Cup clashes between his Saints side and Cardiff Blues, both won by the English team.

An incident between Hartley and rival hooker Gareth Williams saw both being sin-binned in the Pool One encounter at Franklin's Gardens.

Then Blues' Wales scrum-half Richie Rees received a 12-week ban after being cited for making contact with the eye area of Hartley during the return fixture.

England coach Martin Johnson defended his hooker after Gatland's comments, saying that Hartley "will be fine and his temperament will hold up".

Former England and British and Irish Lions centre Jeremy Guscott says he understands why Wales have targeted the abrasive Northampton hooker, but warns that trying to unsettle Hartley could backfire.

"Picking a little bit on Dylan Hartley I can see the reasons why, he is a fairly volatile character and he may rise to the bait if he's playing," Guscott told Scrum V.

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"But I think Warren needs to think a bit more about his own team rather than the others.

"Dylan Hartley is one of those players that I think he likes that.

"Everyone has highlighted this one appalling game of throwing into the line-out that he had for Northampton against Leicester but every other time he's been okay.

"Yes, he lives on the edge but that's the type of player he is and I think if you give him a bit of sledging... it might even make him play better.

"If Hartley is selected and he has a nightmare in the line-out then everyone is going to think that Warren is a genius. If it goes the other way then you think he's Warren the wally!

"That's the risk you take when you make comments like that.

"That's not even a flesh wound for a rugby player. A comment from an opposition coach it goes in one ear and out the other.

"It won't be recorded, I doubt it will even be written up on the changing room wall... you just move on and get on with it."

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Scrum V: Tales of the Six Nations

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