Feb 4, 2017 at 4.50pm UK
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Dylan Hartley 'in a good place' ahead of Six Nations opener

Dylan Hartley passes the ball during the England captain's run at Twickenham Stadium on November 8, 2013
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Dylan Hartley claims that a "brutal" training camp in Portugal has him in top condition ahead of England's meeting with France, two months on from his last outing.

England captain Dylan Hartley has insisted that he is fit and ready for his side's Six Nations opener against France on Saturday after being put through his paces during a "brutal" training camp.

The 30-year-old was handed a six-week ban for striking Sean O'Brien during Northampton Saints' defeat to Leinster in early December, initially making him doubtful for the tournament.

Hartley's suspension was not as excessive as expected, though, and he believes that he is in prime condition for England's title defence despite going two months without competitive action.

"We obviously train at a higher pace [than games] and we learnt we increased that in Portugal by 10%," he told reporters. "I haven't been doing that for the last two weeks - I've been doing it for six weeks on a one-on-one basis.

"It's been brutal but it puts me in a good place. Knowing how hard we prepare gives the team confidence. There's no rust."

Hartley was handed the England armband by Eddie Jones upon taking over in 2015, playing a key part in the Red Rose's 14-match winning streak since then.

Dylan Hartley of Northampton Saints during the Aviva Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Wasps at Franklin's Gardens on March 27, 2015
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