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‘Hartley can be effective England captain’ – Jones

Dylan Hartley has a “clear role with England as captain and leader”, says head coach Eddie Jones as he defended the hooker following criticism of his leadership in Northampton’s dismal run.

The on 30 December was Saints’ seventh Premiership defeat in a row.

But Jones said Hartley, 31, was “a different person for England”.

“It’s been tough at Northampton, but like a lot of good players he’s able to compartmentalise,” he told BBC Sport.

Hartley is part of a 34-man England squad selected for a two-day training camp in Brighton in preparation for the Six Nations, which begins on 3 February.

England start their campaign in Italy on 4 February before facing Wales at Twickenham the following weekend.

“He loves the club, he had a great relationship with Jim Mallinder and it’s a difficult time. Their form’s not great and he carries a lot of weight,” added Australian Jones.

“But he’s got a clear role with England and that’s to be captain and to be the leader. He understands that. His value to us is as captain and he’ll be a fine captain for us.

“Is Joe Root the root of England’s cricket problem? No he’s not. Certainly captaincy is an issue and I’m sure he can improve his captaincy, but you can’t just look at one thing and say ‘this is the issue’.”

Jones has however continued to be cautious in his praise of one of England’s rising stars, Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith.

The 18-year-old, an apprentice player in England’s training squad, kicked 15 points and was involved in five of Quins’ seven tries against Northampton at Twickenham.

“I didn’t think he played that well,” Jones said.

“I could have scored a few of those. He played ok. The critics just get carried away. You guys are the opposite to Paul Scholes.”

Harlequins ran in seven tries against Hartley’s side in their final game of 2017

Why Hartley is a fine England captain

“Dylan works as hard as anyone I’ve seen in England camp. Eddie works hard and ‘Dyls’ has to work as hard as Eddie. He’s in meetings from the minute he wakes up to the minute he goes to bed. It’s non-stop for him.

“It’s a tireless job and he does it brilliantly. He’s a great leader on and off the field. He gets the boys to bond and he leads by example.

“Obviously it’s hard as a player to see him getting all this stick and criticism when you know the type of bloke he is. He’s a very proud bloke, he works incredibly hard on his game and he’s trying to play well.

“‘Dyls’ leads everything. He leads all the meetings. He has knowledge inside and out on defence, attack, he has to know scrum-half plays and things a hooker shouldn’t have to know, but he makes sure he knows. Eddie knows what he’s doing and we haven’t lost a lot of games under ‘Dyls’.”

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