Confirming widespread rumors, England Coach Eddie Jones announced today that Northampton Saints hooker and captain Dylan Hartley would be England’s captain going forward. Hartley now joins Ireland hooker and Ulster captain Rory Best, as well as France captain Guilhem Guirado as the new captains following the 2015 World Cup.
Hartley is a bold choice given his less than ideal disciplinary record, as well as the fact that Exeter’s Luke Cowan-Dickie and Saracens’ Jamie George are now yapping at his heels. Hartley’s play is what has made him a captain, and there can be no doubt that his grunt work at the breakdown will be a major part of England’s success at the 6 Nations.
Across the Irish sea however, things are not so rosy. Alarm bells went off across the emerald isle when Jonny Sexton was taken off for a head injury assessment (HIA) against Wasps, and a state of emergency was declared when tighthead Marty Moore went down clutching at his leg.
It has now been confirmed by Ireland and Leinster that Sexton passed the HIA, and will be able to play against Wales in two weeks time. That said, Marty Moore’s injury is a major issue, as it is now clear that he will play no part in the tournament after tearing his hamstring. Moore is a major loss for Ireland given that Mike Ross will not be available for the first two rounds, and that Moore’s work around the field, especially at the breakdown and with ball in hand has improved dramatically over the last two seasons.
To make matters worse, Moore will be leaving Leinster at the end of this season to join Wasps. Contrary to reports that Joe Schmidt had convinced the 24 year old tighthead to stay in Ireland, Leinster confirmed this afternoon that Moore will be making the move to the Premiership club.
It now looks as though 23 year old Tadhg Furlong or Connacht veteran Nathan White will be the starter against Wales. Furlong has been in good form for Leinster, but he is inexperienced, and White’s performances for Ireland at the World Cup may just give him the edge. Ireland have yet to name a replacement, although it is likely that Rodney Ah-You or John Ryan will be the ones to fill the shirt.