Serial offender Hartley picked as England captain

Dylan Hartley has been chosen by coach Eddie Jones to captain England at the Six Nations Championship. The hooker has been suspended for a total of 54 weeks because of a variety of infringements.
Dylan Hartley has been chosen by coach Eddie Jones to captain England at the Six Nations Championship. The hooker has been suspended for a total of 54 weeks because of a variety of infringements.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Dylan Hartley may have a terrible disciplinary record, with more than a year of his career lost to bans, but new coach Eddie Jones had no qualms in making the hooker his first England captain.

The Australian, the first foreigner to coach England, has appointed Hartley as his skipper for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship and said the "biggest risk was to not take a risk".

Hartley, 29, replaced Chris Robshaw after the Harlequins flanker was criticised for his role in England's disastrous World Cup last year when the tournament hosts crashed out in the first round.

New Zealand-born Hartley missed the event because of suspension. He has been capped 66 times, but has amassed a staggering 54 weeks of suspensions for offences including eye-gouging, biting and swearing at a referee.

He missed two World Cups and the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia through bad behaviour.

But Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final and the man who masterminded Japan's shock win over South Africa at last year's edition, said that, properly harnessed, Hartley's aggression was what England required.

"Dylan can lead the side with the sort of attitude we want," he said. "We want a team with an uncompromising feel about it.

"We need to change English rugby and get back to what the rest of the world fears about English rugby and that's their forward play."

He stressed the change in leadership should not be seen as a criticism of Robshaw, first-choice captain during former coach Stuart Lancaster's four years in charge of England.

Hartley made no attempt to hide from his disciplinary record.

"It's there in print for you to see what I've done wrong and what I've been guilty of," he said.

"I'm well aware of the perception and the reputation that comes with it, but I play my best when I'm on the edge. I just know to not go over the edge."

England have won the Six Nations tournament just once since their Grand Slam and World Cup-winning year of 2003 - a record Jones is determined to improve upon.

His first game in charge of England is their Calcutta Cup clash away to Scotland in Edinburgh on Feb 6.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Serial offender Hartley picked as England captain'. Print Edition | Subscribe