Six Nations: James Haskell backs his 'good friend' Dylan Hartley for England captaincy
Even while basking in the glory of captaining his club Wasps into the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup as winners of the so-called pool of death, James Haskell found talk turning to England’s imminent challenge for the Six Nations. And the experienced flanker, who has a good chance of starting against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday week, gave his backing to the predicted choice of Dylan Hartley as England captain.
“I’ve played with Dyls since England Under-19s and he’s a good man and abrasive, which is what you want,” said Haskell after Wasps’ 51-10 win over Leinster in Coventry on Saturday. “I think he would be a good captain. He will lead by example and his passion for the shirt is renowned.”
Hartley’s notorious series of disciplinary bans began in April 2007 when Haskell was one of two Wasps players on the receiving end of the Northampton hooker making illegal contact with the eye area. But Haskell, who has 62 England caps to Hartley’s 66 as their country’s most capped current players, said: “If you are the best guy for the job, your track record doesn’t matter. There might be a few people with stiff collars that will get a little bit upset, but that’s the nature of the game. I’m not particularly conformist myself. I don’t worry too much about people’s opinions. I love Dyls. He is a good friend of mine, and I couldn’t care less what he’s done before.”
While Ireland were waiting on the medical bulletin regarding Jonny Sexton, the Leinster fly-half forced off in the first half with concussion, and prop Marty Moore, who injured a shoulder, England’s squad gathered last night in Surrey, where they will be schooled on Wednesday by George Smith, Haskell’s Australian clubmate and master of the breakdown.
Haskell is browned off with what he sees as anachronistic views of the openside-flanker role, but honest enough to admit he cannot replicate the turnover skills of the likes of Australia’s David Pocock. “George can’t turn someone into an unbelievable guy over the ball,” Haskell said of Smith, “but he can share his knowledge and it is vast. “He can articulate very well what he expects – tricks and tips, foot placement, where your hips go.
Will it transform us into David Pococks? I’m not sure. Maybe he’s got a bit of magic up his sleeve he hasn’t shared yet.”
Wasps’ outside centre and England candidate Elliot Daly scored a brilliant try at top pace from a set-up by the half-backs Dan Robson and Jimmy Gopperth. The England No 13 jersey has been in the possession of Bath’s Jonathan Joseph, and Haskell said: “The team for Scotland has no doubt been pencilled in but Elliot will certainly be pushing.
It’s been a bit of a mystery why he’s not had opportunities before but he has put his hand up and shown what he can do.” While Wasps look forward to a quarter-final at home to Exeter Chiefs, Ireland will have no representative in the knockout stages for the first time since 1998.
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