Six Nations 2016: Is Dylan Hartley the right captain for England?

Chris Robshaw and Dylan Hartley
Dylan Hartley (right) has replaced Chris Robshaw (left) as England captain for the Six Nations
RBS Six Nations
Dates: Saturday, 6 February - Saturday, 19 March
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New England head coach Eddie Jones has chosen Northampton Saints captain Dylan Hartley to lead his side in the Six Nations.

The 29-year-old is the most capped player in the squad but remains a controversial choice because of a series of on-field misdemeanours that have seen him accumulate more than a year's worth of bans.

A top-class hooker and a fearless competitor, but is Hartley also a huge gamble for England?

Who is Dylan Hartley?

Dylan Hartley
Dylan Hartley came through England's youth academy before making his senior debut in 2008

Born and raised in New Zealand, Hartley first became involved in the England academy set-up after visiting Sussex on holiday in 2002, aged 16.

He moved to the UK on a permanent basis and initially signed for Worcester Warriors, before moving to Northampton Saints, who converted him from a prop to a hooker.

Hartley made his Saints debut in 2005 and, in 280 games for the club, has captained them to the Premiership title and a European final.

At international level he has amassed 66 caps since his debut in 2008 but has not played since last year's Six Nations because of injury and well-documented disciplinary issues.

Hartley's chequered past

Dylan Hartley's year of bans
Dylan Hartley has collected only three yellow cards on England duty

As England's most capped player in the current squad, Hartley seems like the ideal choice as captain.

But he has been suspended for on-field incidents for a total of 54 weeks in his career and it has seen him miss several major international tournaments.

Bans have seen him miss two World Cups, in 2007 and 2015, and one British and Irish Lions tour.

Hartley did make it to the 2011 World Cup with England, but received his first and only international yellow card in the victory over Georgia, and was also among the squad members who were photographed on a night out at a dwarf-throwing event in New Zealand.

Hartley's suspensions
April 2007: Banned for 26 weeks for gouging Wasps forwards James Haskell and Johnny O'Connor
March 2012: Banned for eight weeks for biting Ireland's Stephen Ferris in the Six Nations
December 2012: Banned for two weeks for striking Ulster's Rory Best
May 2013: Banned for 11 weeks for verbal abuse of a match official - costs him a place on the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia
December 2014: Banned for three weeks for elbowing Leicester's Matt Smith
May 2015: Banned for four weeks for headbutting Saracens hooker Jamie George - costs him a place in England's World Cup training squad

'He's not a knight in shining armour'

England's coaching team has been overhauled since their disappointing home World Cup campaign last year, where they failed to get out of the group stages, and straight-talking Jones will bring a different attitude to that of his predecessor Stuart Lancaster.

Flanker Chris Robshaw, who was captain throughout Lancaster's tenure, got on with his game with little drama, but it is thought Jones wants a more confrontational character to lead his new-look side - and so has picked Hartley as his man.

"It will be a controversial appointment but most good captains play on the edge," said Lennie Newman, who signed Hartley to Northampton's academy.

"He's not the knight in shining armour, coming down the track on a white horse, saving the princess from the tower. But Eddie Jones knows the characters he wants in his side.

"You'll get the staunch disciplinarians saying, 'what on earth are we doing?' They will use the word thug. People who use the word thug have never met Dylan.

"He's a thoroughly decent man. I know the man and I know what he can do for England. Everybody in life deserves a second chance."

And one of Hartley's victims - Wasps captain James Haskell - said he "could not care less" about previous indiscretions and has also backed "abrasive" Hartley as someone who will "command respect".

"There might be a few people with stiff collars who will get upset, but that's the nature of the game," said Haskell. "You live and die by the sword.

"He'll lead by example and his passion for the shirt is renowned."

But should he even be in the starting XV?

Dylan Hartley and Jamie George
Hartley and Saracens' Jamie George are now England team-mates - but Hartley missed the 2015 World Cup after headbutting George last seasson

Disciplinary issues aside, a debate has arisen over whether Hartley should even be first-choice hooker for England's Six Nations campaign.

He has struggled with a rib injury and concussion in recent weeks, and rivals Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jamie George have caught the eye in the Premiership.

"My view on a leader is that first they are a consistent player," former England centre Jeremy Guscott told BBC Sport. "Dylan Hartley is in fierce competition with Jamie George - and George will probably be my choice.

"Hartley is unquestionably one of the best scrummagers and line-out technicians in the squad but I'm struggling to see him fit Eddie Jones' requirements in terms of energy, pace, fitness and enthusiasm."

Will it work out for England?

Analysis - Paul Grayson, former Northampton fly-half and coach

"I coached Dylan as an 18-year-old and watched him grow from a chunky little loose-head prop to a very, very good hooker. I've watched him then become a captain, in a bid to calm him down a bit and add some responsibility to him, and 99% of the time that has been the case.

"Dylan is an excellent captain - not just on the field but around the environment of a club. He's a shop steward for his players. If he feels they need a break from coaching or if they need something different, he's happy to stand up and represent them.

"I would say the vast majority of his time as a captain, he's been an exemplary role model. But he's had a year off through bans and that muddies the water somewhat. Separating the two is hard.

"Will he do a good job for England? I have absolutely no doubt. Will you watch it with half an eye closed thinking don't get sin-binned for something silly? Yes, I probably will."

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