Eddie Jones confirms Dylan Hartley as England captain

3 min

London (AFP)

Eddie Jones ended the speculation over the England captaincy on Wednesday by confirming Dylan Hartley was set to lead the side in their Six Nations opener against France next month.

Northampton hooker Hartley, who last season captained England to a Six Nations Grand Slam, was given a six-week ban after being sent off for striking Sean O'Brien during the Saints' defeat by Leinster on December 3.

But despite not having played a competitive match for some two months, the New Zealand-born front-row is on course to captain England against France at Twickenham on February 4.

With Hartley alongside him at the Six Nations tournament launch in London on Wednesday, England coach Jones said: "Well I haven't actually told him yet. Shall I say now?

“Okay, I'd like to officially announce Dylan's the captain."

Hartley, who has missed more than a year of his career because of a variety of suspensions, insisted he was ready to face France.

"I'm confident, I feel fresh, I feel fit, and focused," he said.

"I know where I need to be," he added before Jones interjected: "He's had 60 weeks off mate, he's a world expert."

Hartley's latest ban came shortly before World Rugby introduced new and stiffer penalties for dangerous, head-high, tackles.

- 'Speed limit' -

Hartley, 30, accepted he would have to change his game.

"The much-documented tackle technique, I've been working very hard with Gussie (England defence coach Paul Gustard) on that," he said.

"We always want to tackle low, but there are times when as a second man, low isn't an option," added the 79-times capped Hartley.

"It's about for me, my arms, bring them tighter to my body, following through with those, then the shoulder, rather than the arm."

Jones compared World Rugby's changes to the introduction of speed cameras on roads.

"It's always been illegal to tackle the head of an opposition player, so in that sense nothing's changed," he explained.

"You put speed cameras in and what happens -- hundreds of thousands of people get fined.

"A year later the fines decrease. It's the same with high tackles.

"It will be the same until people learn to 'drive safely', and safely is within the speed limit."

Jones arrived at the launch sporting a black eye, having bruised his face while slipping in a hotel shower earlier on Wednesday.

The Australian, who has won all 13 of his matches in charge of England since taking over following the 2015 World Cup, had a wound dressing around his left eye.

Jones joked about his injuries by referring to England's martial arts-training sessions.

"So first we had judo then we had MMA (mixed martial arts). We're just going through all the martial arts and seeing what happened on the body," Jones said.

"I just slipped over in the hotel this morning.

"My mother always told me I had to shave, I walked out of the shower, forgot to shave and this is what happens."