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The day Dylan Hartley swung on teammate to make him a better player

By Ciarán Kennedy
Dylan Hartley alongside Brian Mujati (left) and Soane Tonga'uiha. (Getty)

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Ben Foden has detailed the day Dylan Hartley punched a teammate who arrived as a new signing at Northampton Saints “on a jolly.” Foden was caught in the middle as Hartley squared up to Brian Mujati, the South African prop signed from the Stormers in 2009.


Speaking on the latest episode of the RugbyPass Offload podcast, Foden explains how “something switched” with Mujati following the training ground incident with Hartley.

“This is one of my favourite stories about Dyls being a captain, because this needed to happen,” Foden said.

“Muj, I hope he won’t mind me saying, when he first turned up at Northampton he was there on a jolly. He was like, ‘I’m happy to sit on the bench’…

“We had signed this South African, big unit, he was stacked for a front row. We were like, ‘him and (Soane) Tonga’uiha are going to change the way we play the game.’ And he turned up, and he was not interested.

“It started to really sink in with people: Who is this guy, sitting on the bus saying ‘I’m happy to get paid my money and sit on the bench.’ I know Dyls heard this and was like, ‘this guy needs to be sorted out.’

“One day in training, Dyls is being a bit niggly. He keeps niggling and trying to get Muj to bite, and eventually Muj bites, goes for Dyls, but Muj doesn’t realise all this backed up aggression in Dyls, who is annoyed because he’s captain of the team and this guy is in his front row, supposed to be a hard-ass dude, and he’s just here on a jolly.

“Muj sort of goes towards Dyls to threaten it, and Dyls doesn’t even hesitate: boom, wallops him straight in the eye, splits him straight across the eye. I’m in the middle like ‘Woah, what is going on!’ and Muj is just shocked. You can just see Dyls has got that glint in his eye, like, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ 

“Muj is a big dude, and Dyls is a big dude, but I think if you’re looking as an outsider you think Muj is going to kick Dyls’ ass, but not that day. Dyls was ready to throw down and Muj was shocked, split his eye. I was in between, telling Muj to go see the physio and Dyls to calm down, get back into training.”

Foden says the incident help transform Mujati’s attitude, who spent four years with the club. 

“I’m telling you now, from that moment, I don’t know whether Dyls spoke to Muj after, but there was something switched inside Brian that made him realise he was there for a bigger job than what he thought,” Foden added.

“He became an unbelievable player for us and a real cornerstone of our scrum. Him and Tonga’uiha sort of gave us that platform to go and win silverware and be competitive. 

“I always really respected Dyls for that, that he took it on his shoulders to sort him out.”

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Ice Baths, Six Nations & New York with Ben Foden | E15 | Rugby Podcast | RugbyPass Offload
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Ice Baths, Six Nations & New York with Ben Foden | E15 | Rugby Podcast | RugbyPass Offload


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