Jones confident in 'bad boy' Hartley as England rugby captain


London (AFP)

Dylan Hartley may have a terrible disciplinary record, with more than a year of his career lost to bans, but new coach Eddie Jones had no qualms in making the hooker his first England captain.

The Australian, the first foreigner to coach England, has appointed Hartley as his skipper for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship and said the "biggest risk was to not take a risk".

Hartley, 29, replaced Chris Robshaw after the Harlequins flanker was criticised for his role in England's disastrous World Cup last year when the tournament hosts crashed out in the first round. Hartley missed the event because of suspension.

New Zealand-born Hartley has been capped 66 times, but has amassed a staggering 54 weeks of suspensions for offences including eye-gouging, biting and swearing at a referee.

He missed two World Cups and the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour of Australia through bad behaviour.

But Jones, Australia's coach when they lost the 2003 World Cup final and the man who masterminded Japan's shock win over South Africa at last year's edition, said that, properly harnessed, Hartley's aggression was what England required.

"Dylan can lead the side with the sort of attitude we want. We want a team with an uncompromising feel about it. The biggest risk was to not take a risk," Jones said.

"We need to change English rugby and get back to what the rest of the world fears about English rugby and that's their forward play.

"I was telling a few of the players that when I was coaching Australia against England, we felt if we could get parity in the scrum and maul, we knew we could win the game."

He added: "We need to get back to that English style of play that's based on a strong scrum, driving maul and uncompromising cleanout."

Jones added: "We all make mistakes as young people. I made a hell of a lot as a young coach.

"He (Hartley) has made some mistakes. He's got a wife, he's got a young daughter. Life changes, priorities change."

Jones stressed the change in leadership should not be seen as a criticism of Robshaw, first-choice captain during former coach Stuart Lancaster's four years in charge of England.

"Let's get one thing right, it's not about what Chris Robshaw didn't do," Jones said. "Chris has done a fantastic job for England over the last four years, but we've decided to take a new direction."

- 'On the edge' -

Meanwhile Hartley made no attempt to hide from his disciplinary record.

"I am me. It's there in print for you to see what I've done wrong and what I've been guilty of," he said.

"I'm well aware of the perception and the reputation that comes with it, but I play my best when I'm on the edge. I just know to not go over the edge."

England have won the Six Nations just once since their Grand Slam and World Cup-winning year of 2003 -- a record Jones is determined to improve upon.

"There is a big difference between playing for England and winning for England," he said.

"When I showed the players the Six Nations results and where we are ranked since 2003, I think they were relatively shocked.

"It means at the moment we are in tier three of Europe. In the bottom three teams.

"To change that is about three percent -- but that three per cent is hard because it is doing all the things you don't want to do."

Jones's first game in charge of England is their Calcutta Cup clash away to Scotland in Edinburgh on February 6.