Skipper Dylan Hartley focused on first hurdle as England bid for a record-equalling autumn

 
Ross McLean
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Australia v England
Hartley skippered England to a series whitewash in Australia during June (Source: Getty)

England skipper Dylan Hartley is refusing to focus on anything other than the opening international of the season against South Africa as his side bid for a record-equalling autumn.

Successive victories against the Proteas, Fiji, Argentina and Australia at Twickenham would match England’s all-time winning streak of 14 Tests, which was set by Sir Clive Woodward’s 2003 World Cup-winning squad.

Should England’s modern-day vintage deliver, a further four wins in the 2017 Six Nations against Wales, France, Italy and Scotland would set a new world record, beating the previous best runs of 17 by New Zealand and South Africa.

“There’s no win record without the first game,” said Hartley, whose side are currently ranked No2 in the world. “So the biggest challenge for us is South Africa. And this last three days we’ve had together has been all about South Africa.

“Every time I play for England I want to win. All our focus now is on South Africa and winning that game. I’ve never beaten South Africa and I don’t think anyone in the squad’s ever beaten them. So there’s a massive challenge there for us.”

The autumn programme gets underway on 12 November, although before then England’s players will be in Premiership action when the new season begins on 2 September.

“The message from the coaches is clear. It’s get back to your clubs, play well for your clubs, when he [head coach Eddie Jones] or the other coaches are watching they should be able to see who the England players are,” added Hartley, speaking at the launch of England’s new kit. “They expect us to be the best players on the pitch.”