Dylan Hartley: RFU would be happy with hooker as England captain

By Chris JonesBBC Radio 5 live rugby reporter
Dylan Hartley
Dylan Hartley is expected to be be named England captain on Monday

Dylan Hartley's disciplinary record should not prevent him being appointed England captain, according to the head of English rugby Ian Ritchie.

The Northampton hooker is expected to be named skipper by new head coach Eddie Jones on Monday.

Hartley has been banned for over a year in total during his career.

But Rugby Football Union chief executive Ritchie said he had "paid the penalty", adding "I don't think it precludes him [from being captain]".

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, Ritchie added: "It is primarily a matter for the head coach, and I'm not going to hinder that in any way.

"It's a matter of balance and perspective, and Dylan I'm sure brings many positives as well to the set-up."

Sam Underhill - can he be picked?

Sam Underhill
Underhill played for Gloucester before moving across the Severn to Wales to study

Ritchie confirmed the RFU is monitoring the case of young flanker Sam Underhill, who plays for Welsh region Ospreys.

The 19-year-old is English and is on the radar of England boss Jones, but is ineligible to be picked for his country while playing outside the English Premiership.

Underhill - who has captained England at Under-18 level - is studying at Cardiff University and is contracted to Bridgend and the Ospreys. external-link

However, Ritchie says Underhill's case may be viewed differently to the likes of those who play in France, and that he may be treated as a special case given his age.

"I think we need to look at that, and we are having some discussions about that," Ritchie added.

"We want to keep people who have played in our age-grade teams, as he has. We maybe need to look at whether it is different for elite squads compared to development squads."

Toulon in the Premiership?

Maa Nonu - Toulon and New Zealand
Toulon have a galaxy of stars including New Zealand's World Cup-winner Ma'a Nonu

Ritchie says French club Toulon's bid to join the Premiership is a "long shot".

The Toulon president Mourad Boudjelall has written to Premiership Rugby this week about the prospect.

The RFU council would have to approve any change to England's elite competition, and Ritchie believes there are numerous obstacles in Toulon's way.

"I think it's a challenging proposition," Ritchie said.

"I would think it's a long shot, but having said that it's for others to discuss as well, and we've not really sat down and had a proper, considered conversation about it yet.

"But in some ways it's interesting Mr Boudjellal thinks that playing rugby in England is good for Toulon, so we should look at that as a positive."

World Cup legacy

Despite England's disappointing performance at the World Cup, the RFU says it is on course to meet legacy targets.

Early evidence shows participation is increasing, including 8,000 adults returning to the game during and after the tournament, and the RFU has launched programmes to get more schools and clubs playing the sport, and will also provide 100 new artificial pitches across the country.

"We really are trying to use the opportunity the Rugby World Cup gave us to grow the profile of the game - and participation in the game - across the country. The hard work has started for us now as we try and maximise the opportunity," said the RFU's rugby development director Steve Grainger.