Scrum-half Lee Dickson named Northampton Saints captain
Lee Dickson has been named Northampton Saints captain, replacing Dylan Hartley in another blow to the England hooker whose latest ban ended his World Cup hopes.
Scrum-half Dickson has assumed the honour after Hartley had led the East Midlands Aviva Premiership club for six years.
Hartley's disciplinary problems caught up with him again when his ban for head-butting Jamie George in the Premiership semi-final cost him his World Cup slot.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster jettisoned Hartley once the New Zealand-born front-rower received a ban that would rule him out of the World Cup opener against Fiji.
Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder hailed 30-year-old Dickson on his appointment, but also pledged Hartley will retain a high level of influence at Franklin's Gardens.
"Lee has been a key part not only of the team, but also our leadership group at the Gardens for a number of years," said Mallinder.
"He has captained the side well in the past and is a player with a huge amount of big-game experience both for club and country.
"On the field he sets the example with his tremendous work rate and leadership, while off it he is a popular and respected member of the squad.
"We have no doubt that he is the right man to step up for the job.
"Lee takes over from Dylan, who has been a superb captain for the past six seasons - the most successful period in the club's history.
"He will remain one of many leaders in the team and provide crucial support for Lee from both a playing and day-to-day perspective."
Hartley was handed a four-week ban for his headbutt on George in Northampton's 29-24 Premiership semi-final defeat to Saracens in May.
England boss Lancaster subsequently dropped the 29-year-old, whose career suspensions now total 54 weeks.
Forwards coach Graham Rowntree has since admitted England would still consider drafting Hartley in during the latter stages of the World Cup in the event of injury and once his ban is served.
Saracens hooker George - the man on the receiving end of the headbutt in question - has replaced Hartley in England's ranks.
Former Newcastle Falcons scrum-half Dickson admitted his pride at being named Northampton's new skipper.
"It's a huge honour," said Dickson. "First and foremost we all know what a phenomenal captain Dylan has been and to have him as part of our circle of leaders will be a massive help for me.
"It's a job I've done in the past and one I've really enjoyed, so when Jim (Mallinder) sat me down and asked the question I had absolutely no hesitation.
"I am aware that it is a big role and one that comes with a lot of responsibility, but I can't wait to take it on and am looking forward to leading the team out."