‘Brilliant’ communicator Hartley is on track for World Cup captaincy

England captain Dylan Hartley (centre) celebrates with the Cook Cup.
England captain Dylan Hartley (centre) celebrates with the Cook Cup.
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HEAD COACH Eddie Jones has dropped his biggest hint yet that Dylan Hartley could remain England’s captain for the 2019 World Cup given he is “surfing at the top of the crest” with his improving standard in the role.

Although the hooker, 31, has overseen a brilliant run of results since being appointed on-field leader when Jones came into power at the 2016 Six Nations, his position has still always been under intense scrutiny.

This is mainly due to the presence and form of Saracens’ Jamie George, who, despite being Hartley’s deputy for England, was the British Lions’ starting hooker in all three Tests against New Zealand this summer. The 27-year-old is certainly pushing hard, but Jones reminded everyone of his admiration for Hartley after Saturday’s impressive 30-6 win over Australia.

Asked if George will start against Samoa this Saturday, he said: “We’ll wait and see. Dylan was outstanding.

“If you look at what his contribution was, it was outstanding. His captaincy was first-class. He’s moving from being a good captain to being a better captain. He manages the referee well, manages the team well. He’s got a good demeanour about him with the referee.

“It’s so important for the captain to have a good relationship with the referee. It’s difficult refereeing the game.

“We play a game that has contest in every component. One team’s trying to keep the ball, one’s trying to get the ball, so your ability to communicate effectively with the ref is so important. He does it brilliantly.”

Pressed on what makes the Northampton Saints star – who has had disciplinary issues throughout his career – such a good communicator, Jones said: “He’s been around a bit. He’s seen the bottom of the trough and he’s now surfing at the top of the crest and he appreciates relationships. He appreciates the opportunity of what he’s doing at the moment and he’s only going to grow as captain.”

Although Jones was spotted swearing in a fit of fury during the previous week’s win over Argentina, it was Australia coach Michael Cheika who threatened to self-combust on Saturday after a series of debatable decisions went against his side. “I didn’t see it; I was trying to stop myself from self-combusting,” insisted Jones, as his side ended the Wallabies’ seven-game unbeaten run.

“It’s the world we’re under, mate. We choose it, we choose to do this job. No one makes us do this job and we have to find ways of controlling our frustration.”

Match report: Page 8.