England head coach Eddie Jones has called on his side to be daring when they open the defence of their Grand Slam Six Nations title against France next month, underlining the need for leaders of the stature of captain Dylan Hartley to show the way.

Jones has absolute trust in Hartley as the man to set the right tone, bemoaning the fact that too many young players are mollycoddled or insular. He exempted the likes of George Ford and Owen Farrell from that critique but stressed that much-touted putative England captain Maro Itoje falls a long way short of that status at the moment.

Hartley is not afraid to upbraid players who step out of line or are not focused on the job.

"Dylan is a very unusual boy in that regard because young people don't like calling other people out," said Jones. "It is a skill we have to teach the players.


"A guy was telling me his son was 13 and in a football academy and he is told what to wear, when to brush his teeth, everything. He wants his son to buck the system but he can't because that's elite sport these days.

"A captain is very important and underneath that, we need eight or nine others supporting him that can also do the job. We want a team that can fix a problem on the field and not be looking [to the coaches' box] in the grandstand."

Apart from resolving injury and fitness issues concerning four of the 34-man squad named yesterday - prop Joe Marler, lock George Kruis, flanker James Haskell and the suspended Hartley - Jones' focus is on developing a larger core of players who have the necessary self-assurance, individuality and presence to become strong leaders.

The Australian believes that England's chances of winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup depend on such fundamentals. Without strong-minded and perceptive characters - the types "to make my job redundant", as Jones puts it - England will be rudderless.

Jones is wary of France believing they have found their identity again under coach Guy Noves; their joie de vivre, as he expressed it.

His favourite memory from old Five and Six Nations games was "England-France games because you always had that contrast in style".

To combat born-again France, England need Hartley to be shipshape and the rest of the team to acquire more grit and decisiveness.