In news from last week, it was revealed that current England Rugby captain Dylan Hartley, will be removed from the South Africa rugby tour. But what is strange, is the ‘lack of tears’ and mute response from fans and stakeholders. Why?
Hartley has always been an indifferent player and leader. The Northampton Saints player at times was an essential member of a team who fell and then rose to become the feared England Rugby team captain. But his popularity has been questioned….as has his discipline.
Removed now through concussion-related injury, is his likely replacement Jamie George the man everybody truly wants as the England hooker?
Dylan Hartley: Few tears as Captain removed from South Africa tour
The 93-cap figure has accumulated a career that is both respected, yet also maligned. Not due to his skillset, but more so for the attitude, behaviour and association with his birthplace of New Zealand. At times, he is seen as having a disregard for the consequence of his actions.
Considered often for his prolonged ‘time off the park’ when suffering repeated suspensions. Often questioned for that ill-timed discipline, it did not stop Eddie Jones from repeatedly naming Hartley as his captain though. And more often, the first-pick starting test hooker.
It meant that Jamie George – the heir apparent for several years – has only started in a couple of tests. Hartley has suffered from injuries before, but with the tour of South Africa approaching it is an important step on the road to Japan 2019.
In terms of who would be the second and third choice hookers is still to be qualified. As is who might captain England. But in terms of the battle for the number two shirt, that has been in constant question.
Is Dylan Hartley the form Hooker?
This discussion has been ongoing one since 2015. A clash between the two hookers in May of 2015, saw Hartley banned for four weeks. It put his position in question; although he would play in three of the Rugby World Cup pool matches [before England were denied any further progress after a two losses].
So form has been a consideration between each man over a long period. George would more often finish the game, after Hartley had (more recently) led England to a string of successes. So, in 2017/18, has Hartley been the form hooker?
No, not entirely. In the domestic competition, the Saints hooker has not shown any form to promote himself over his nearest competition. With Northampton destined to finish outside the top six, he will play no further part in the Premiership after the regular season. No Champions Cup next year either, as the side are less powerful now than in his ‘heyday’.
George right now, is seen as the more capable hooker by many commentators.
Will Dylan Harley be missed in South Africa?
Hartley has missed International fixtures before. His calf strain gave George an opportunity this season, and the challenge from George is immediately relevant ahead of the South Africa tour. But in terms of form, Hartley has been neither good, nor bad.
He will be missed, but that could be as a mentor – rather than a force in training. Indifference seems to follow Hartley, and when compared to others in skillset, he can be found wanting. But it is on-the-field leadership where the England captain is both respected and feared. And where he will be missed on tour.
Francisco Isaac characterizes him well. “Very strong leader, excellent communicator, he puts his body on the line every game (against France in Paris in 2016, a tackle that showed this quality). Great at the lineout and scrum elements, and a tough cookie on the field”.
If anything is mentioned about Hartley, the above video highlights display his qualities well. Dylan Hartley maybe seen as a combative leader. But one very much more successful than some of his peers [Phil Vickery or Mike Catt]. His role in the 2016 renaissance cannot be ignored.
After a successful Six Nations campaign, Hartley went on to lead England to an historic Test series victory over Australia. England won all three Tests against the Wallabies, and their first ever series win on Australian soil.
Northampton Saints choose player welfare and longterm future
A statement released by Northampton on April 23, outlined that the 32 year-old would miss the remainder of the domestic campaign. That is with a view to returning to training later in the summer, for a full 2018/19 pre-season schedule.
That is both a consideration of player welfare – with protocols for concussion and head injury assessment (HIA) now an important part of club’s responsibilities. That could also ensure a long-term future for the 242 club caps leader.
Hartley added: “I’m very disappointed that I will not be available for selection for Saints’ remaining Premiership games, as well England’s tour to South Africa.
Since his debut in 2006, he has epitomized the fearsome spirit of the Saints. At times, he has gone too far though, and that has led to derision from a contingent of the UK rugby fraternity.
And that has translated into ‘few tears’ as Captain removed from South Africa tour.
Dylan Hartley confident of 2018/19 season comeback
The final word must go to the player. Head concussion is not a simple exercise in recovery for anyone. It can often follow a person, with a long list of names who have questioned if the risk is worth it. Being England captain, the internal and external pressures must be significant.
Hartley spoke in media releases; “Fortunately/unfortunately for some I’ll be back next season to help my respective teams push on. Thank you for your support.”
While an individual who breeds indifference, in 2019, Eddie Jones and the England Rugby fanbase might well still require Hartley’s presence on the field. For his personal sake, LWOR hope that he can fully recover, or…. make the right decision on his future.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images