With the Six Nations kicking off in just four weeks time, attention is beginning to focus on who will be crowned champions or perhaps even Grand-Slam champions on March 17.
England will go in as favourites – they recorded just one loss in 2017 – to Ireland on the last day of last year’s championship at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
However, they host Wales and in particular, Ireland at Twickenham this year which is a huge boost against a side they would perceive to be the main team aiming to stop their quest to win the tournament for the third year in a row.
Ultimately, once England enters a period of international fixtures, the question surrounding Dylan Hartley’s captaincy arises. Hartley has serious competition for the number 2 jersey, most notably from Jamie George, who started all three Tests against the All Blacks for the British and Irish Lions last summer.
However, as we approach the Six Nations, Hartley has overseen a dismal run of form for the Northampton Saints and calls for his exclusion in England’s starting XV are becoming louder.
One man who believes Hartley shouldn’t be selected for England, let alone the Saints, is Austin Healey.
“I think his performances for the Saints don’t warrant his selection in the Saints team, let alone the England team. For too long, people beat around the bush with Dylan, it’s never really worked for me, I don’t understand why he was made England captain, I don’t understand why he is England’s hooker,” Healey said on BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight.
“I did a little tweet saying ‘Dave Ward is a better hooker than him’….he is. Luke Cowan-Dickie is a better hooker than him – he is. Jamie George is a better hooker than him – he is. So there’s this balance between whether or not it’s all about leadership. For me, leadership isn’t just what you do in the white shirt, it’s about when you get back to your club, it’s the whole how you react to the public, it’s about how you speak to people.
“You never saw Chris Robshaw come back from England and not play well for Quins, and yet people thought he wasn’t a good England captain, I don’t understand it!”