Eddie Jones: Dylan Hartley is first name on team sheet right now
Eddie Jones has reacted to scrutiny of Dylan Hartley's ongoing selection by insisting England's captain will remain the first name on the team sheet for the foreseeable future.
Hartley was replaced after 46 minutes of the 21-16 RBS 6 Nations victory over Wales, has never completed any of the 15 Tests overseen by Jones and since midway through last autumn has failed to last into the final quarter.
Applying pressure on his position is Jamie George, the form hooker in English rugby who made a significant impact as a replacement in Cardiff and produced tackle and carry statistics that dwarfed Hartley's.
But despite calls for a change in the number two jersey, Jones insists he never considered installing George for the visit of Italy to Twickenham on Sunday in acknowledgement of Hartley's leadership during 15 successive Test victories.
"It's great that people have different opinions, but if I listened to the opinions of different people then I wouldn't be here," Jones said.
"It's a fantastic debate, but there was never any debate whether Dylan would be captain or whether he would start the game.
"There will be a time when Jamie does get the spot, but at the moment Dylan is our captain and the first pick on the team sheet.
"We're really happy with the way Dylan's going. He's training hard, working hard - probably never worked harder in his life.
"He's very industrious with what he does with the team and the team values his captaincy greater."
George was outstanding throughout his 34 minutes on the Principality Stadium pitch, but has been told by Jones that his time will come having won all 14 of his caps off the bench. The Australian was keen to point out to George that the longevity of 30-year-old Hartley's international career will not be the same as someone like England cricketer Alastair Cook.
Cook, who recently resigned as Test skipper but intends to carry on playing and add to his 140 appearances, was in attendance on Friday as Jones' side were put through their paces.
"Obviously Jamie is disappointed. I'd be disappointed if he wasn't disappointed," said Jones.
"In fact if he wasn't disappointed he wouldn't be in the squad because he wants the spot and at some stage he will get it.
"Dylan can't play until he is 50. It's not like Alastair Cook. We had Cook come into training today (Friday) and he's played 140 Tests. You don't play 140 Tests at hooker because rugby is a lot more exacting."
While George is pushing hard to start at hooker, his Saracens team-mate Owen Farrell continues to grow in stature as a leader of England once Hartley departs the field and on Sunday the centre will win his 50th cap.
"Owen's very vocal and it's not just on the field. He's my room-mate and makes my coffees in the morning," Hartley said.
"He's one hell of a singer, he sings in a shower. He's wise beyond his years. He puts 100 per cent into every session and he's one hell of a role model for guys in the team."