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

Chris Rattue: Eddie Jones must be barking mad to let Mad Dog Dylan Hartley lead the pack

Eddie Jones shakes hands with his new captain, Dylan Hartley. Photo / Getty Images
Eddie Jones shakes hands with his new captain, Dylan Hartley. Photo / Getty Images

Eddie Jones - you must be barking mad.

England rugby stepped over a line this week, when it allowed Mad Dog Dylan Hartley to take over the captaincy following the 2015 World Cup humiliation.

There is one player on the planet whose record is so bad that it should preclude him from leading a national team on a number of levels. That player is Dylan Hartley.

Hartley's career is a crime wave, his offences including biting an opponent's finger. Throw in head butting, eye gouging, swearing at a ref, elbowing, punching...for a combined total of 54 weeks worth of suspension.

The "swearing at a ref" is an interesting case, and should send shivers down the spine of English supporters. He didn't just swear at a ref -- he called Wayne Barnes a "f***king cheat".

Barnes had only just given him a huge warning, and red carded Hartley when he transgressed again.

Hartley was the Northampton captain, this was the club final, and a Lions tour was about to begin. Yet he still couldn't hold his tongue and his temper, in the 2013 incident.

Apologists point out that Hartley claims his attack was aimed at opposite Tom Youngs. But a sensible leader would have realised Barnes might think it was aimed at him (as it probably was). The risk wasn't worth it. Test captaincy material? Crazy.

The 29-year-old's loss of control is not in the past - he went out of his way to head butt an opponent last year, putting him out of yet another major assignment - the World Cup.

Wherever you stand on the sporting role model business, there must be some obligation and benefit in drawing a line of decency which provides a beacon for future generations. England rugby has let itself down. Previous coach Stuart Lancaster lost the World Cup with honour, making a stand against Hartley and Manu Tuilagi over violence issues. Jones is now trying to win with dishonour.

He's made a big mistake. Hartley lacks the composure for test captaincy. He has repeatedly been unable to fulfil his commitment to teams because he loses his cool or is on the sideline. This means he leaves it up to team mates, which makes him a bludger.

And no matter what players might say publicly, idiotic thugs like Hartley do not win the respect of team mates. I well remember a former All Black forward scoffing at Richard Loe's hardman image, telling me that the prop's infamous cheap shots were an embarrassment to the tight forwards' club. Hartley has an internal trigger that can't be controlled, one that will leave Jones in the firing line.

- NZ Herald

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

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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