McGeechan: Saints star Hartley must be the new England captain

Dylan Hartley is back in action after a rib injury (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Dylan Hartley is back in action after a rib injury (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Sir Ian McGeechan says Saints star Dylan Hartley should take over from Chris Robshaw as England captain.

With Eddie Jones having replaced Stuart Lancaster as England head coach, Robshaw’s role as skipper has been called into question.

A number of names have entered the frame to replace the Harlequins flanker, with Saints forward Tom Wood and Wasps lock Joe Launchbury among them.

But McGeechan, who was Northampton director of rugby between 1994 and 1999, believes Hartley would be the perfect choice.

“It is going to be one of Eddie Jones’ biggest decisions, and I do not think that he needs to make it immediately- he can easily wait until the week of his first (Six Nations) match against Scotland in February, because he needs to get to know the players and to get a feel for the dynamics of the group – but for me, were I coach, Dylan Hartley is the player I would go for,” McGeechan wrote in his column in The Telegraph.

“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.

“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 relinquished his role as Saints skipper during the summer, with Lee Dickson taking over from the 29-year-old.

But he had gathered six years of experience of leading the side, and McGeechan feels he would be ideally suited to steering England’s promising group of players.

“For me you need a stronger leader when you have a younger team without leaders that is still trying to define what it wants to be,” McGeechan added.

“England need a mature leader right now. If it is not going to be Robshaw, then, for me, it has to be Hartley.”