Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Former winger picking Hartley as next England captain

Dylan Hartley wasn't picked for the England Rugby World Cup squad due to his poor disciplinary record. Photo / Getty
Dylan Hartley wasn't picked for the England Rugby World Cup squad due to his poor disciplinary record. Photo / Getty

Bring back some biff? Or maybe it is simply a war cry.

But one of England's longest serving backs says England should be captained by their most violent and notorious forward as they try to restore their credibility after the World Cup nightmare.

The retired Mark Cueto, who played 55 tests over nine seasons, is promoting hot-headed Dylan Hartley as the leading candidate for the captaincy saying he is in the mould of previous hardman leaders such as Martin Johnson.

The New Zealand-raised Hartley, who appears to be the favourite for the job, has been heavily suspended over his career and was dumped out of Stuart Lancaster's 2015 World Cup squad after a head butt in a club game.

Cueto, who has been awarded a New Year's MBE, told TalkSport Radio that past comments from the new coach, Australian Eddie Jones, made it obvious he would dump loose forward Chris Robshaw from the captaincy.

Hooker Hartley would be an explosive choice, suggesting that England will take a more brutal approach under Jones. The other candidate mentioned is rising lock Joe Launchbury.

Cueto said: "Dylan Hartley is the obvious choice within that group...he's a 50-plus test capper and has been in the squad 10 years. He leads from the front.

"Yes, there have been disciplinary issues but he has matured and a lot of issues are more at club level than international level."

Cueto said English captains Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Lewis Moody "lived on the edge...with fisticuffs and handbags."

"It is a physical game and you can't get away from that," said Cueto.

"I'm not condoning someone with disciplinary issues, but Dylan Hartley would be a great candidate."

Hartley's record of suspensions include those for eye gouging, biting, head butting, punching and also abusing a match official when he called Wayne Barnes "a f****** cheat".

Lions icon Sir Ian McGeechan has also promoted Hartley, saying: "The situation needs a strong personality and character to lead England. And Hartley is that man. He has been captain of Northampton. It is not as if it is a new role for him."

- NZ Herald

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