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Dylan Hartley as England captain not against RFU core values - Ian Ritchie

Published 22/01/2016

Dylan Hartley is expected to be named England captain on Monday
Dylan Hartley is expected to be named England captain on Monday

Dylan Hartley's appointment as England captain would not be at odds with the Rugby Football Union's core values, according to chief executive Ian Ritchie.

Hartley is expected to be named skipper for the RBS 6 Nations on Monday despite a dismal disciplinary record comprising of 54 weeks worth of suspensions for a range of offences including biting, gouging, head-butting and swearing at a referee.

The 29-year-old hooker is viewed by head coach Eddie Jones as the type of combative player who will help restore the hard edge to England's pack that was lost under the previous regime.

Replacing incumbent Chris Robshaw with Hartley could be viewed as a decision made contrary to the RFU's core values of respect, discipline and sportsmanship, but Ritchie sees no conflict.

"If Eddie thinks Dylan is the right captain and he is the best thing to get a winning team, you put it into that perspective," Ritchie said.

"I don't see it in balance and perspective as a contradiction in what we have been trying to do and say about the values of the game.

"There is no impediment as far as I'm concerned. This is a call for Eddie and the coaching team.

"There is nothing that would make you say 'no don't go down this route'. It's a facet that's important for the head coach to do."

The RFU looks set to implement its exceptional circumstances clause by picking Ospreys flanker Sam Underhill for the Saxons' tour to South Africa this summer.

Underhill, who is mentored by England's World Cup winning flanker Richard Hill, has been outstanding for the Ospreys this month and Twickenham is keen to make sure he does not qualify for Wales on residency grounds.

The 19-year-old openside could also play for Scotland and the United States, generating a sense of urgency in ensuring he is tied to the Red Rose, who he has represented at junior level.

England's visit to Australia in June is a possibility, but a more likely destination is South Africa where an appearance for the Saxons would be enough to prevent him from being recruited by a rival nation.

Twickenham will only pick players from the Aviva Premiership unless there are exceptional circumstances and Underhill, who is studying at Cardiff University, is on course to be the first selected under that rule.

"Sam is certainly on the radar. He's clearly a talented player and we would want to make sure he stays in consideration for England," Ritchie said.

"If someone is at a university then we need to make sure something like that doesn't artificially inhibit us selecting talented people.

"He has played for England at age grade and we think he sees it that way, but we have to recognise we're in a competitive environment. We have got to try to make sure we put our best foot forward."

Ritchie sought to dampen expectations over England's prospects at the forthcoming Six Nations as Jones prepares to oversee his first match in charge in the February 6 visit to Scotland.

"Eddie is on a four-year arrangement and it is that usual balance between wanting to win the first game while not expecting a situation to be bedded in first time around in a matter of a few weeks with a new coaching team," Ritchie said.

"I want to be very clear. He starts and I start with the same mantra: 'We want to win every game'."

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