Hartley backed to captain England

Date published: November 29 2015

Former British and Irish Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan has backed Dylan Hartley to take over the England captaincy.

Hartley missed the Rugby World Cup this year because of suspension, the latest moment in a chequered career that also included a ban which forced him to miss the 2013 Lions tour to Australia.

Despite his problems in the past with indiscipline, McGeechan believes that Hartley should come straight back into the England side and has the right qualities to be chosen to lead the national side by new England boss Eddie Jones.

"For a start he merits a place in the side – and I hope his current concussion problems are not lasting – because England missed him at hooker in the Rugby World Cup. He could have made a real difference in that tournament," McGeechan wrote in his column for The Telegraph.

"This situation needs a strong personality and character to lead England. And Hartley is that man. He has been captain of Northampton. It is not as if it is a new role for him.

"Yes, there is an element of the gamble about it because of Hartley’s disciplinary record, but that is where you back yourself as a coach.

"You have to give Hartley a very clear understanding of what you expect from him. Yellow cards simply cannot be a part of it.

"Whenever I have spoken to Hartley, I have found that you can have a very good rugby conversation with him.

"He seems to me that he has a good rugby brain, and I think he could form a really good rapport with Jones because it is so important that the coach and captain have a close and special relationship."

Hartley, 29, has won 66 caps for England since making his debut in 2008.