Eddie Jones has recently bemoaned the lack of captaincy options available to him as England enter into their second Six Nations campaign under the Australian head coach, so we take a look at the potential future captains of the England team.
England coach Jones said in a recent interview (via The Mirror):
“How many potential captains do we have in this squad? Not many.
“Young people today don’t like calling other people out. Dylan is very unusual in that respect. It’s an issue we need to deal with.
“We need to get eight or nine guys who are consistently leaders, and we don’t have that at the moment.
“I think it’s a reality of the way society is. Nowadays guys don’t go to university, they don’t go out and work, they are in more sheltered environments such as academies.”
So, who are the most likely candidates to lead England in the future?
If Dylan Hartley was suddenly ruled out of the Six Nations – whether that be through injury or another disciplinary issue – who would step up to the plate to take over as leader of the England side?
Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood was once touted as a potential leader of the men in white, but his chances have faded since becoming second fiddle to James Haskell and Chris Robshaw in the England team.
Eddie Jones named three vice-captains at the start of his time in charge: Billy Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Mike Brown. Vunipola is out of the entire Six Nations with injury, so realistically it leaves two options.
Yet neither is quite the right fit to lead the team now. Jones has said that Farrell would take over as captain in place of Hartley, but do you really want to give leadership responsibilities to a player still out of position and the team’s goal kicker? It’s a lot to place on one person’s shoulders.
Finally, Mike Brown is not even guaranteed a place in the starting XV with Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly applying pressure on his position, so would he genuinely be the right man to take charge of the team?
Saracens lock Maro Itoje has an old head on young shoulders, but with just seven caps to his name so far for some it would be a step too far right now to hand the captaincy of the national team to the player, although as we move towards 2019 he could become more of a viable option.
Eddie Jones has a lot of faith in his monster number eight Billy Vunipola, and there is the chance that the Saracens man could take over responsibility for leading the team before England head to Japan in 2019.
Yet it does seem as if Jones has settled on Farrell as his next in line and if Hartley does not make it to the World Cup in two years’ time – his problems with concussion, his disciplinary record and his age are all factors that could see him drop out before then – then it seems eminently sensible to start to give Farrell his chances to lead the side.
Right now Itoje does seem like the best fit to lead England post-2019, but Harlequins flanker Jack Clifford once led the England U-20s to their first ever Junior World Championship win back in 2013. He too could be a contender for the captaincy in the distant future.
Ultimately, leadership is an area that Jones is all too aware he must develop and quickly, but right now England should feel fortunate they have a leader with the quality of Dylan Hartley, a man who has helped bring unprecedented consistency and success to the national team.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena