Hartley's early success is no surprise, says Flatman
Dylan Hartley has led England to three victories in as many games since being named captain, and former Red Rose prop David Flatman insists no one should be surprised by his 100 per cent record.
Northampton Saints hooker Hartley led England out at Twickenham for the first time on Saturday, marking the occasion with a 21-10 victory over Ireland.
That made it three wins from as many games as skipper, having been handed the role by new head coach Eddie Jones following a disappointing World Cup.
When Jones turned to Hartley, instead of previous incumbent Chris Robshaw, a few eyebrows were raised with the hooker having spent more than a year on the sidelines through suspensions.
But Flatman, who collected eight England caps before turning his hand to punditry, always knew Hartley would be a resounding success.
“I know Dylan well and played against him a lot of times, so I know what he brings,” said Flatman.
“People talk about him as someone who plays on the edge and loses his rag every now and again, and those two assessments may well be accurate.
“But he is also a very good rugby player, who is exceptional at the breakdown, especially the opposition breakdown, and slows down a lot of ball for a hooker.
“He carries well, throws better and hooks better than everyone else. He does play with an edge, but that inspires his teammates and he is a good leader and orator.
“I absolutely would have backed him to be captain when he was named and I still do.
“I wouldn’t say he’s played with any more maturity in the opening three games of the Six Nations – not that I don’t think he has played with maturity because he has.
“But he’s played almost 70 times for England and he’s had three yellow cards, so he has always played with maturity for his country.
“His disciplinary record – for England – is very good, even if for Northampton it’s awful. Maybe it would have been worse if he had played all the games where he was banned, but he hasn’t been told off that many times in an England shirt.
“So far in the Six Nations he has played exactly as I expected him to; aggressively and in control.”
And Flatman believes Hartley’s new-look England haven’t put a foot wrong as they sit pretty atop the Six Nations table.
“They’ve won three games now,” he added. “Of course there is always still work to be done but it has been a pretty pinch yourself start to be honest.
“They haven’t really done a huge amount that has been different from the last era but Eddie Jones has only had a few weeks with them.
“So you can’t expect miracles and I think it will be a good while before you actually see the sort of team he’s trying to put together, but in the meantime they are learning his ways.
“They are also learning the ways of Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard, but as they’re learning, they’re winning so far, so things are good.”
Land Rover Ambassador David Flatman attended the Jaguar Land Rover Academy of Sport workshop alongside Sportsaid Patron Bryan Steel. For more information visit sportsaid.org.uk.