LONDON, January 25- Wales coach Warren Gatland believes England hooker Dylan Hartley is a potential weak link for his side to exploit in next week's Six Nations opener in Cardiff.
Hartley is expected to pack down alongside Andrew Sheridan and Dan Cole in England’s front row, but Gatland is convinced the out-spoken Northampton captain isn’t always able to back up his words with actions.
With the Millennium Stadium showdown looming, Gatland has piled pressure on Hartley by highlighting his perceived weakness.
"We were pleased with the way our lineout went in the autumn. England’s imploded a little bit against South Africa, and a couple of weeks ago I saw Hartley go to pieces (for Northampton) against Leicester," Gatland said.
"He’s always got a lot to say, hasn’t he? Let’s see what he has got to offer and how he fronts up against us on February 4."
Gatland indicated that Hartley did not endear himself to the Wales camp following incidents during two European Cup clashes between Saints and Cardiff Blues before Christmas.
Hartley and Blues hooker Gareth Williams were sin-binned after a flare-up in the Pool One encounter at Franklin’s Gardens, with the players exchanging words as they left the field.
Blues’ Wales scrum-half Richie Rees then received a 12-week ban after being cited for making contact with the eye area of Hartley during the return fixture a week later.
Hartley gave evidence by telephone to Rees’ subsequent disciplinary hearing in Dublin.
Gatland added: "He was responsible with some of his evidence for Richie Rees being banned for a long period, and he was not prepared to step outside to the back of the stand with Gareth Williams when invited to do so, so we will see how he fronts up against us."