Five reasons why Dylan Hartley is the right man to captain England

Dylan Hartley is set to be named England captain on Monday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Dylan Hartley is set to be named England captain on Monday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints star Dylan Hartley was named England captain on Monday.

And it is an appointment that has already sparked plenty of debate.

Some have questioned Hartley’s suitability for the role.

The 29-year-old has had his disciplinary record slapped round his face with more frequency than a boxer taking punches in a title fight.

His full rap sheet rears its head whenever the hooker is mentioned.

But because the role of England captain is such a high-profile position, there is perhaps no surprise that it has been mentioned more than ever.

However, new England boss Eddie Jones is not a coach of repute for no reason.

Just by bringing Hartley back into the squad following his omission from the World Cup squad shows he has faith in the Saint.

And he is not the only one who does.

At Franklin’s Gardens, team-mates and coaches are fully behind Hartley.

And here are five reasons why he is the right man for Jones and England...

Experience...

No other player in the Six Nations squad selected by Jones can match Hartley’s international experience. He has won more caps than any of them, amassing 66 Test appearances since making his debut against Pacific Islanders in November, 2008. That experience will be vital with so many fledgling stars in the squad. And Hartley will command respect from them.

Club captaincy...

On the subject of experience, Hartley was Saints skipper for six years before relinquishing the role last summer. Had he wanted to, he would have stayed on, but as it was, he was keen to spend more time focusing on his new off-field role, as a father. That Hartley held the Saints captaincy for so long is a display of what he means to the club. He took over from fans’ favourite Bruce Reihana and Saints stuck by the England man through thick and thin. They could have given the role of skipper to a number of other big characters in the squad - both Tom Wood and Phil Dowson were real contenders and often stepped in when Hartley was absent. But through it all, the hooker held onto the captaincy - and that says a lot.

Respect from team-mates...

The previous point leads into this one. Ask any of Hartley’s team-mates and they will have nothing but glowing references to give him. They have defended him to the hilt from day one and they are fully backing the likely decision to make him England captain. After Hartley skippered Saints to a vital Champions Cup victory at Scarlets on Saturday, Samoan centre George Pisi was asked what impact Hartley has on this team. His reply? “He doesn’t say many things - he really puts his words out on the field. Sometimes, it can get him in trouble, but that’s just the passion he has for the club and his team-mates.” Meanwhile, Jim Mallinder was hailing Hartley as a ‘real leader’, and these are no hollow statements. There is a bonafide belief that Hartley is a super skipper. And it seems Jones feels the same.

England’s World Cup winning captain was no angel...

When England won the World Cup in 2003, they had a captain with extra edge. Martin Johnson was an abrasive Leicester lock who led from the front. And he wasn’t shy of mixing it with the best, often finding himself in hot water as a consequence. Jones clearly wants England to have some of that spike. It was lacking at the World Cup, with nice guy Stuart Lancaster as coach and the affable Chris Robshaw as captain. Jones may want his team to be steered by someone who strikes fear into the hearts of opponents. Hartley can do that, and it must be remembered that his disciplinary record for his country is very good. Only one of his six suspensions has come from being on England duty, with the hooker banned for eight weeks for biting the finger of Ireland forward Stephen Ferris in March, 2012.

Still England’s finest...

Whatever you think of Hartley’s character, it cannot be denied that he remains one of England’s best all-round hookers when he is fit and firing. His set-piece work is second to none and he injects real fire and desire into the team around the field. He was superb in Saints’ win at Scarlets on Saturday and his influence has rubbed off on his deputy, Mike Haywood, who has learned plenty and is now pushing Hartley all the way. Haywood has all the qualities of Hartley and could eventually be England’s first-choice hooker. But for now, Hartley still looks set to lead the way for his country. And rightly so.