England coach Eddie Jones has backed his teams’s skipper, Dylan Hartley, to lead the British and Irish Lions on their tour to New Zealand in 2017.
Hartley has shone in the leadership role with England, captaining them to eight successive victories, which includes a Six Nations Grand Slam and a series triumph against the Wallabies in Australia.
And Jones believes the Northampton Saints hooker is one of the main contenders to captain the Lions against the All Blacks.
“I think he would be a great candidate,” he told the BBC.
“He has clearly done a good job leading England – he has got the ability to develop relationships with people – and therefore he would be a great candidate for the Lions job.”
Jones’ appointed Hartley as England’s captain in January and the decision was a controversial one, given the 30-year-old’s poor disciplinary record but the player has proved to be a revelation as the team’s leader.
“He is very good with the players in making sure they understand standards we want in the team, and making sure they understand the values that are important,” added Jones.
“He continues to do that on a daily basis and that is so important for a captain.”
England’s number eight and vice-captain, Billy Vunipola, echoed Jones’ sentiments and revealed that his skipper and coach are on the same wavelength.
“I feel he is a clone of Eddie,” said Vunipola.
“They are both brutally honest and you have a lot of respect for that because you know where you stand.”
Vunipola feels Hartley’s leadership style gets the best out of his players.
“He will always put the team first,” he added.
“He is very selfless – everyone is equal. If he thinks you aren’t pulling your weight he will tell you, and if you are doing a good job he will tell you.”
“He would never ask of us something he wouldn’t do himself. He is very inspirational, and a lot of boys follow him in that respect.”