England Rugby Head Coach Eddie Jones has said that Dylan Hartley will lead England for the defence of their RBS Six Nations title when they face France at Twickenham on February 4th – providing the hooker proves he is fit to play.
Hartley led England through a historic 2016 as his side won 13 consecutive Test Matches including a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 series whitewash of Australia in the summer. But on returning to his club side Northampton Saints, the 30-year-old was sent-off after a swinging arm challenge and was suspended for six weeks.
Despite this latest disciplinary setback for Hartley, Jones said he will stick by his captain for the Six Nations opener, as long as he proves his match fitness at a warm-weather training camp in Portugal.
Jones said: “A prerequisite to get into the England side is to be very fit and not playing games means he needs to undergo an unbelievably stringent fitness programme over the next five or six weeks.
“He is doing that and is in the best position to continue as captain.”
Manu Tuilagi suffers another injury setback which rules him out of England training squad
After making his much anticipated return to action for Leicester Tigers last month, Manu Tuilagi had been named in the England training squad.
However the 25-year-old was again forced to miss the squad, after limping from the field with a knee injury after just eight minutes as Leicester played Saracens at the weekend.
The bulldozing centre has endured a torrid run of injury problems which have restricted him to just a handful of appearances over the past 18-months, robbing England of a world class talent capable of breaking any game wide open.
Jones expressed his disappointment at the news saying, “He was coming back into some form, getting his power back so it is enormously frustrating for him.”
There are also injury concerns over talismanic flanker Chris Robshaw who suffered a shoulder injury over the Christmas period, this would be another major blow to England who will be without Mako & Billy Vunipola for the duration of the Six Nations.
However the return to fitness of James Haskell is a huge boost for Jones and England, after the Wasps star was forced out of the Autumn Internationals with a toe injury.
One month to go until England v France – Six Nations 2017
There is just one month to go until the start of the RBS Six Nations as Twickenham hosts England v France in the fixture known as ‘Le Crunch’.
Victory for England would see them break the longest ever winning streak, set by the World Cup winning side in 2002/03.
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