World Cup winner Lewis Moody is urging new England captain Dylan Hartley to prove his critics wrong as he spearheads a new-look Red Rose next weekend.
Along with a new head coach in Eddie Jones, England also have a new captain with Chris Robshaw being replaced by Northampton Saints hooker Hartley.
The move by Jones is not without its risks, with Hartley having amassed more than a year of bans during a chequered career thus far.
And as England look to move on from a dismal World Cup that saw them become the first host nation to exit the tournament at the pool stages, former Red Rose captain Moody is hoping 29-year-old Hartley has learned his lesson.
“The appointment of Dylan Hartley is the biggest statement to date that we are away from the previous regime that this is us and we are making our mark,” said Land Rover ambassador Moody, who was speaking ahead of the annual HITZ awards which take place on February 4th. Land Rover is a partner of HITZ, a programme that uses sport for change, helping youngsters overcome some of lives biggest employment, education and social challenges.
“It has been a long time since I played with or trained with Dylan and individuals change over the years as they grow in their own confidence and leadership style. Certainly Dylan would have done that, he has been captain of Northampton for a number of years now.
“I would have always liked to have seen a younger man given the job so that he can grow into the role, like Martin Johnson, like Richie McCaw, like Brian O’Driscoll, who developed into great leaders over times but were also the out-and-out first choice in their position.
“The difficulty with Dylan at the minute is that for me he is not out-and-out first choice for his position, but obviously in Eddie’s mind he is.
“The other statement there he wanted to make is that he wanted an abrasive, aggressive, confrontational England side.
“For all Dylan’s misdemeanours on and off the field, he is an abrasive and aggressive rugby player and you know you will get that every time with him.
“If he can get the other area of his game under control then he could be a very good captain – I certainly hope he can master his emotion and grow into that role and lead from example on that pitch rather than grabbing other headlines.”
But regardless of what decisions could have been made differently, Moody insists Hartley and England should be full of confidence as they go in search of a first Six Nations title since 2011.
“I certainly think England and the new regime have the opportunity to win the Six Nations,” he added.
“I think if you can get past this first game in Scotland, which is no easy cake walk as Scotland is a very hard place to go and win, then that will set them up nicely going forward.
“I think they should be confident because the talent in the squad is definitely there but the only question is does Eddie Jones and his coaching staff have enough time?
“They only have two weeks essentially and the training regime has been spoken about and the boys will only get one day off before that match. They will be made to work very hard, but hopefully it will be all worth it.”
Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover is a partner of HITZ, the sport for change programme, and will be supporting the annual HITZ Awards on February 4th. @LandRover_UK #WeDealInReal