Polarising rugby journalist Stephen Jones has taken aim at England head coach Eddie Jones and captain Dylan Hartley ahead of the 2018 Six Nations.
In a Sunday Times article headlined “Eddie Jones’s England team selection has tunnel vision” the veteran writer sought to bring some perspective to England’s 23-1 record under lively Australian Jones and his ongoing support for Hartley, a hooker who couldn’t make the recent British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.
He suggested coach Jones had taken over the English outfit amidst a period of decline for some of rugby’s established powers – and that the lack of action against the All Blacks left question marks.
“It would be churlish to go too far into the theory that never in the history of international rugby, with South Africa, Australia, France, Italy, Argentina, Samoa and, until recently, Scotland either poor or downright pathetic – and no fixtures against New Zealand – has it been easier to be dominant,” Jones wrote.
“Eddie Jones has timed his reign splendidly.”
“Hartley’s problems in terms of discipline, leadership and playing quality began way before Northampton’s decline. He does not have the presence, power and biting quotability of Martin Johnson, Dallaglio or Brian O’Driscoll; or the quiet aura of Sam Warburton, or the menace of Sean Fitzpatrick or, indeed, the follow-me exuberance on the field of Rory Best,” wrote Stephen Jones, who clearly has little faith in the hooker’s leadership qualities.
“Dylan Hartley is by all accounts a decent bloke with a wide streak of humanity. He is neither a great player nor a great captain. One day, England will need him to be both, and they will lose,” he concluded.