Eddie Jones has given Dylan Hartley's England captaincy its strongest endorsement yet to edge him closer to retaining the role for the 2019 World Cup.
Saints skipper Hartley, the only player to have started all 22 Tests under Jones, was at the helm for a fifth successive victory over Australia on Saturday after a trio of late tries at Twickenham saw the Wallabies collapse to a record 30-6 defeat.
Jones stated in May that Hartley could be his World Cup skipper if he continued his upward trajectory having initially viewed him as a 'foundation' captain as part of a two-year plan.
The opening half of the Australian's four-year contract will conclude after the clash against Samoa on Saturday with Hartley's leadership already having scaled fresh heights in the eyes of his head coach.
"Dylan was outstanding," Jones said. "His captaincy was first-class. He's moving from being a good captain to being a better captain.
"He manages the referee well, manages the team well. He's got a good demeanour about him with the referee.
"Your ability to communicate effectively with the referee is so important and he does that brilliantly.
"He's been around a bit. He's seen the bottom of the trough and he's now surfing at the top of the crest and he appreciates relationships.
"He appreciates the opportunity of what he's doing at the moment and he's only going to grow as captain."