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Northampton and England hooker Dylan Hartley

Leading man: Dylan Hartley in action against Argentina in November. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

White orcs, smartphones and Disney movies all crop up in this chat with the England captain


Who makes you laugh in the Northampton squad?

Paul Hill. He’s a polite young fella but a bit of a busybody. He likes to think he’s book-smart but he’s not. He just watches a documentary and becomes educated overnight. Also, he walks through the changing room with dirty boots. He’s always forgetting his towel and dries himself with his kit. He brings a lot of the grief on himself.

Do you have any phobias?

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I try to take on my fears. I wouldn’t like to jump out of a plane or bungee but I’d do it. I don’t like deep, dark water but I’d swim in it. Snakes and spiders aren’t great but I’ve held them.

Is there anything that annoys you?

Bad manners really get to me. Respect needs to be part of any walk of life and manners, like kindness, are free. You need to think about people – don’t be inconsiderate.

I hate phones too. I know I’m as drawn to mine as anyone but I see it infiltrating rugby with the Instagram generation. With every game, kids need to take a photo and it’s all about the likes. They have headphones on the bus and Snapchat their kit. That’s not for me.

Are there any no-nos in the Saints changing room?

Phones again. I’ve made it clear that I worry where players’ heads are if they’re connecting with the outside world when they should be focusing on the changing room, which is a special place. Players should be concentrating on their role in the game. It grates with me, or maybe I’m just getting old.

Name game: Sam Underhill has been given a few nicknames by Dylan Hartley. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

What are the funniest nicknames in the England squad?

We’ve got a young pup, Sam Underhill, and I call him Dogboy – it’s hygiene and ringworm related. I also call him The White Orc because he looks like that Lord of the Rings character. And I call him Keith for some reason.

What is your nickname?

Eddie (Jones) calls me The Butcher. You’ll have to ask him why. With others it’s just Dyls or Skips. You don’t have to call me Sir.

Most embarrassing moment in rugby?

I’ve had a few red cards, some in front of 90,000 people. At the time it feels like your whole world is collapsing. It may be funny to people reading about it but it’s beyond humbling; it’s harrowing in fact.

Who would you least like to be left alone in a lift with?

Unlike most people, I think I’d find Donald Trump entertaining – I’m not into politics. I also find Katie Hopkins pretty amusing. Maybe I’m strange.

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Do you have any hidden talents?

I can juggle. Well, I can’t juggle knives but I can do a few balls. I’m not sure it’s a talent but I love Lego and I’ve started buying it for my daughter, Thea. She’s interested but doesn’t have the dexterity yet. It’s good for creativity and passing the time. I know Jack Nowell’s into it too.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Moana, the Disney movie. My daughter loves it, so it’s on 24/7. I shouldn’t admit it but it’s grown on me.

Funny man: James Corden is a big hit in the US and with Hartley. Photo: Getty Images Rugby World

Who would be your three dream dinner party guests?

First up, Sir Ranulph Fiennes. His stories are amazing. I’ve met him before and the things he’s done on mountains, before WiFi, GPS and Gore-Tex, are remarkable. Stephen Hawking is also an incredible guy. I’d like to pick his brains about a few existential things. Then you’d need someone funny. How about James Corden? He makes me laugh but I’m not sure how that mix would go.

What do you miss about New Zealand?

My parents, a lot. You can be anywhere in the world but as long as you have the people around who love you, you’ll be happy. I miss not being at my brother’s and his kids’ birthdays. FaceTime is great but it’s not the same as being there. I’m sounding sentimental, aren’t I?

What do you want to do post-rugby?

Personally, I want to be more involved in my family life. Professionally I’d like to be involved with Northampton Saints in some capacity. That was my thinking in signing a contract until near retirement age. I love the club dearly. We’ve laid down roots and are in a good place.