DYLAN HARTLEY will captain England in their third and final Test clash with South Africa on Saturday after Chris Robshaw was ruled out.
Robshaw suffered a crack in the bone of his right thumb during the second Test in Johannesburg last weekend and will play no further part in the tour.
It leaves the door open for Saints skipper Dylan Hartley to assume the role he occupies with his club for his country.
Hartley was banned for eight weeks in March for biting the finger of Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris during the Six Nations.
But he is seen as a natural leader and coach Stuart Lancaster will now call on the hooker to help England avoid a series whitewash.
Lancaster said: “Chris as you would imagine is devastated. He has led us superbly in the last seven internationals and been one of our standout performers. But the medical advice is that he should not play and we have to trust that expert opinion.
“Dylan Hartley will captain the side. He has been a key part of our leadership group and I know he will step up to the task on Saturday.”
Robshaw said: “I’m absolutely gutted. I’ve been very proud and honoured to lead this group during the Six Nations and on this tour and it’s a difficult way to end the season.
“I know the lads can raise themselves for tomorrow and Saturday and I will be doing everything I can to support them.”