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Eddie Jones expected to turn to Dylan Hartley as England captain

Published 24/01/2016

Dylan Hartley looks set to be named England captain on Monday
Dylan Hartley looks set to be named England captain on Monday

Dylan Hartley is expected to be entrusted with the captaincy for the RBS 6 Nations on Monday as the first step towards restoring the snarl to England's pack.

Head coach Eddie Jones will speak to senior players in the morning before confirming his choice to the rest of the 33-man squad gathered at their Surrey training base.

An announcement is due at an afternoon press conference, when Jones is set to reveal Hartley will succeed Chris Robshaw as captain despite an alarming disciplinary record that has resulted in over a year of inactivity.

Eye-gouging, biting, punching, elbowing, head-butting and swearing at a referee are the offences that have seen the 29-year-old amass 54 weeks of suspensions, forcing him to miss the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour and last year's World Cup.

Jones, however, believes that under the previous regime England drifted away from their core strength of relying upon an abrasive, menacing pack to bully opponents and views the combative Hartley as capable of restoring the flinty edge needed.

World Cup winner Ben Kay understands the appointment, believing opponents detected and duly exploited the apprehension among the Red Rose ranks during last autumn's global showpiece.

"One of the things that came out of the World Cup was that perhaps England were too disciplined and teams saw that as an opportunity," the former England lock told Press Association Sport.

"Perhaps other teams thought they could get away with whatever they wanted and that England wouldn't react. England were almost scared to be undisciplined.

"We all know that rugby is a physical game and at times you play on the edge. Occasionally you have to be forgiven for straying over the edge because that means you're performing right on it.

"That's maybe why Eddie Jones isn't worried about picking someone whose disciplinary record isn't brilliant.

"It sends a message out that England will keep that edge that makes them horrible to play against."

Hartley offers more than mere fury, as the Red Rose discovered to their cost during the home World Cup when his set-piece expertise was sorely missed. Jones' emphasis on a strong scrum and line-out also explains his thinking.

Kay has misgivings, however, and reckons the appointment will be only short term until the likes of Maro Itoje and Jack Clifford are ready to take centre stage.

"One of the problems is that there aren't that many natural leaders in the older bracket. The younger guys who do have leadership potential don't have enough experience," Kay said.

"When Northampton were right at the top, you could see how much better they were with Dylan in the front row. He's certainly someone with leadership.

"He's obviously had his disciplinary issues, but if England were awash with leaders in that older bracket, Dylan probably wouldn't be the choice. But as an interim he would do a good job."

Jones revealed when announcing his first squad on January 13 that his skipper will initially be in place for the Six Nations only and also outlined what he will demand of the chosen player.

"Your captain's got to be your best player. He's got to be one of the first selected in the team, and then he's got to lead by example," he said.

"He needs to set standards for the team in terms of how we operate off the field, how we operate on the field, and he's got to be a conduit between the coaching staff and the players.

"Him and I are going to work so closely together. He is the coach of the team, he has got to be making that decision for the team on the field.

"We will probably be working more closely together than I will be with the other coaches."

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