Phil Dowson has praised the impact former team-mate Dylan Hartley has had on England since taking over the captaincy.
Hartley was named skipper by new England head coach Eddie Jones ahead of the Six Nations and has so far led the team to three wins from as many matches in the tournament.
The Saints star and his international team-mates are still very much on course for the Grand Slam, with games against Wales and France remaining.
And Dowson has been hugely impressed with how Hartley, who was Saints skipper for six seasons before relinquishing the role last summer, has handled his responsibilities.
“I’ve spent a long time with Dylan as my captain, and he’s exceptional,” Dowson said.
“I had absolutely no doubts when Eddie Jones picked him that he’d made the right decision.
“If he’d picked Chris Robshaw I think he’d have done a good job as well, but my experience of Dylan is that he’s an exceptional leader.
“He starts with his own job, starts with his own performance but he also manages to rally the guys around him to be confident and get stuck in early.
“You’ve seen from that England side that it’s a reflection of Dylan’s tenacity and his desire.”
When Hartley was named captain, he namechecked Dowson as one of the players who had had the biggest influence on him as a skipper.
Those two players have had a huge influence on building a winning culture at Franklin’s Gardens, eventually culminating in an Aviva Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup double in 2014.
And when asked about Hartley’s ability to create a culture, Dowson said: “He’s very good at that and there’s other guys in there as well, with Woody (Tom Wood), Calum (Clark), a lot of guys.
“Someone who didn’t play as many games as other fellas, Ross McMillan, was very strong, Tom Mercey, Dom Waldouck, all those were good men. That helped build a culture.
“It’s a very strong environment.”