Northampton Saints have announced that Dylan Hartley has both signed a new contract and been appointed as the club’s captain for the second time.
The 31-year-old, who has made 229 appearances in his 12 years at Franklin’s Gardens, had the armband during the club’s most successful ever extended period between 2009 and 2015.
These six years saw the Premiership, European Rugby Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup trophies all be lifted, several other cup finals be reached – including the 2011 European Rugby Champions Cup final – and the team finish top of the Premiership table for the first time in their history.
He is not the first captain to be re-appointed for a second time; some of the biggest names in Saints’ history have also led the team in multiple stretches, including Hall of Famers Billy Weston, Ron Jacobs, Ray Longland and Don White.
Northampton's director of rugby, Jim Mallinder, says that the hooker – who has also led England to successive Six Nations titles for the first time since the turn of the millennium – has the confidence of coaches and players alike.
“Dylan has rightly received recognition as a superb captain for club and country,” he told Northampton Saints' official website.
“He led the team during a very successful period for us, has the respect of the rest of the squad and coaches alike, and knows what it takes to win silverware.
“The decision to offer Dylan the captaincy is no reflection on how Tom Wood led the team last season. Tom is an outstanding leader himself who is fully committed in training and in games each and every week, and he will remain an important part of the leadership group. But we felt that Dylan is in the right place both personally and professionally to be our captain once again.
“We’re also delighted that he has signed a new contract to stay at Franklin’s Gardens. Dylan has been one of the best hookers in Europe for several years and is hugely committed to the Saints.”
Hartley revealed that he had no hesitations in putting pen to paper, and admitted his surprise at being offered the captaincy.
“It was an easy decision to commit my long-term playing future to Northampton Saints,” he said.
“After completing my 11th year at Franklin’s Gardens last season I was delighted when the club suggested extending my time here. I’m very proud to be offered an opportunity to continue playing and being part of such a great club.
“When Jim approached me about taking on the captaincy I was surprised. For me the timing is right and it is certainly a challenge I want to take on. I’m very passionate about the Saints and would love to see us competing for trophies. We have some valuable experience within the squad that will be driving the team forward this year.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Woody [Tom Wood] for the way he led the team last season. He plays with his heart on his sleeve and body on the line and he did a fine job in what was a frustrating season for us. His support to me will be invaluable, as will his presence on the field.
“I’d also like to thank the Saints supporters for the way that they have been behind both me personally and the team as a whole throughout my time here. We all appreciate the time and effort they put in to following us home and away, and hopefully we will all enjoy success together this season.”