Dylan Hartley: England captain pleased to make Northampton return

Dylan Hartley
Before playing against Leicester in March, Dylan Hartley's previous Premiership game for Northampton had been in October

Dylan Hartley is pleased to be playing for Northampton again after long spells out of the side because of injuries, suspensions and England commitments.

The England captain returned to the Saints' line-up in their 36-31 defeat by Leicester Tigers on 25 March.

"I've had a frustrating 18 months I suppose," hooker Hartley, 31, told BBC Radio Northampton.

"I haven't played as much rugby for Saints as I'd have liked, but playing against Leicester was a great feeling."

Hartley has made only 15 appearances for Northampton in the past two seasons, but while he has no plans to end his international ambitions to prolong his club career, he is now looking forward to helping Saints' pursuit of the Premiership's top four.

He said: "I want to play my best and play in the best teams and part of that is going away with England.

"I've done it for almost 10 years now and that's something I'll never give up on, but I love playing for Northampton and I want to play as many games as possible.

"With the intensity England train at, I feel fit and I felt like I played a good game against Leicester, so form-wise I feel good.

"It's just good to be back playing in a Saints shirt because it's been a while."

Meanwhile, former Saints captain Lee Dickson will join Championship side Bedford Blues as a player-coach at the end of the season.

The 32-year-old scrum-half has played 250 times for Northampton since his move from Newcastle in 2008.

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