Dylan Hartley replaces Chris Robshaw as England captain ahead of Six Nations
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | Updated January 25, 2016
Northampton Saints hooker Dylan Hartley has been announced as the new captain of the England rugby union team, succeeding Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw, as the changes under Eddie Jones continue.
With 66 caps, 29-year-old Hartley is a controversial selection to lead the Red Rose into the 2016 Six Nations because of his previous ill-discipline.
“I’m really excited about the challenge ahead but, in reality, leading this squad of players will not fall just to me,” Hartley said upon being given the England armband.
“There are a number of guys in this squad who will all have important leadership roles to play so we can take this team forward.”
The Red Rose’s first foreign head coach Jones added: “Dylan is an honest, hard-working bloke and I admire his aggressive and uncompromising approach to playing rugby.
“I have every faith he will lead the team tactically and passionately. English rugby is indebted to Northampton to have produced such a fine player.”
New England captain lacks discipline
When you talk about Hartley, however, there is no getting away from his poor and well-documented disciplinary record. He has served suspensions for 54 weeks of his career, including for onfield misconduct during the 2012 Six Nations.
New Zealand-born Hartley missed the 2015 Rugby World Cup after being banned for a headbutt, and his absence from the Red Rose front row was keenly felt in damaging back-to-back defeats by Wales and eventual runners-up Australia.
Coral rate England 13/8 favourites to bounce back from a disappointing end to 2015 by winning their first Six Nations Championship since 2011.
Skipper switch the latest in series of changes
Since a dismal display as Rugby World Cup hosts this autumn where they bowed out after the pool stage, the RFU have made a number of landmark decisions.
Stuart Lancaster paid the price for the Red Rose’s failure at that tournament, leaving the post of head coach by mutual consent. He was replaced by ex-Australia head coach Jones, who is England’s first foreign manager.
All of Lancaster’s key backroom staff (Mike Catt, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree) have left their posts, while Tasmania native Jones has named Steve Borthwick in the new-look setup as forwards coach.
Defensive coach Paul Gustard, another who has connections to Jones from his time at Saracens, has also answered his country’s call. And now, in another move to put further distance between himself and predecessor Lancaster, Jones has confirmed his choice and change of captain. Robshaw, also 29, should still have a role in the XV, but at blindside flanker rather than on the openside.
The Red Rose begin their Six Nations campaign with a Calcutta Cup clash away to Scotland at Murrayfield on February 6th. All eyes will remain on Jones and his first squad announcement in the New Year.