Dylan Hartley’s imminent promotion to England captain has the full support of one of the players eye-gouged by the Northampton hooker nine years ago.
Hartley is expected to be named as Eddie Jones’ skipper for the RBS 6 Nations on Monday afternoon despite a dire disciplinary record comprising of over a year’s worth of suspensions.
Among his offences is gouging the eyes of Wasps forwards James Haskell and Johnny O’Connor in 2007, an act that resulted in a 26-week ban.
Haskell, however, would welcome the appointment of the combative 29-year-old as Chris Robshaw’s successor, stating he “could not care less” about his indiscretions.
“If you are the best guy for the job you lead by example and you play. Your track record doesn’t matter,” Wasps captain Haskell said.
“There might be a few people with stiff collars who will get upset, but that’s the nature of the game. You live and die by the sword.
“Dylan is a good man and a good player. You know he will give 100 per cent and I could not care less what he has done before.”
Jones will speak to his senior players at the squad’s Surrey training base on Monday before officially announcing who will be at the helm for England’s rebuilding phase following a disastrous World Cup.
“I have played with Dylan since England Under-19s and gone all the way through with him. He is a good man and abrasive, which is what you want,” Haskell said.
“He is always committed to what he does and he would be a good captain. He captained Saints for a long time and commands respect from the boys.
“He expects everyone to toe the party line. He’ll lead by example and his passion for the shirt is renowned.
“I love Dylan and he is a good friend of mine. You pick the players to do a job. I am not particularly conformist myself. I do not worry too much about people’s opinions.
“Whoever is made captain, the rest of the team will have to get behind him and that is what we will do.”
England have called up Semesa Rokoduguni to their squad for the RBS 6 Nations as cover for Chris Ashton.
With Saracens having until Monday afternoon to appeal the 10-week ban issued to Chris Ashton for making contact with the eye area of Ulster centre Luke Marshall, head coach Eddie Jones has opted to summon Rokoduguni to the Red Rose training camp.
Rokoduguni, who last week signed a new two-year deal at Bath, won his solitary cap against New Zealand in 2014 before falling out of favour under the previous regime.
If Saracens decline to appeal or their effort to contest Ashton’s ban fails, the 28-year-old Fijian-born flyer will compete with Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell and Marland Yarde for the two wing berths.
England’s Six Nations squad gathered at their Surrey training base on Sunday night with Leicester’s contingent due to arrive on Monday morning following their Champions Cup match against Stade Francais in Paris.
Jones, once he has discussed the matter with his senior players, is expected to name Dylan Hartley as his captain on Monday
Outlining England’s schedule for the week, Jones said: “We’ll have a small chat about where we need to go and then we’ll get on with it. We’re not going to talk too much, we’re going to do.
“There are some clear things we need to address in the team, areas of how we want to play, how we want to operate, but it won’t be a grand address. I’m too old for powerpoints. It will be whiteboard.
“Monday will be installation day, very slow-paced, just organisational. Tuesday we’ll have a pretty good hit-out.
“Wednesday is recovery and Friday is at Twickenham, where we’ll have a really good attacking session. Saturday will be organisational.”
England head coach Eddie Jones has told Chris Ashton he must accept responsibility for the ban that has ruled him out of the entire RBS 6 Nations.
Saracens are deciding whether to appeal the 10-week suspension incurred for making contact with the eye or eye area of Ulster centre Luke Marshall in the first half of Saturday’s 33-17 Champions Cup victory.
The 28-year-old grabbed Marshall around the neck and pulled him to the ground with his hands sliding over the Ireland centre’s face. Marshall complained about the contact and upon reviewing the incident referee Jerome Garces awarded a penalty.
EXCLUSIVE: Eddie gives us the lowdown on Jonny Wilkinson, George Smith and Chris Ashton. https://t.co/cnDuhFR3sx— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) January 20, 2016
The citing officer subsequently lodged a complaint that has been upheld by an independent disciplinary hearing and Saracens have 72 hours until after the written judgement is received to decide whether to lodge an appeal.
“Chris has got to take responsibility for it. Is the suspension too hard? No. That’s the suspension he’s got. One-hundred per cent the onus is on him to make sure he doesn’t get into that position,” Jones said.
“But I am disappointed for him. He was a player in our squad. He’s been playing well this season and it looks like he has been working hard. He’s got that enthusiasm to get the ball and has been one of the form players in the Premiership.
“He has a real sniff for the try line and that is a skill in itself. It’s a set-back. Everyone has set-backs and it’s about how hard he fights back now. He has to serve his time, come back, make sure he is looking after his fitness, his speed and his skills and make sure he comes back in good fettle.
“If he is back on the field and playing well then he will be available for selection again. I’m very disappointed for him and disappointed for the team, but we move on.”
Jones will announce Ashton’s replacement in the Elite Player Squad only once the appeal process is completed.
It is a savage blow for Ashton, who had fought his way back into the England squad after falling out of favour under the previous regime because of his perceived defensive frailties.
He has spent the previous 18 months in international exile but had been earmarked to start on the right wing against Scotland on February 6 and his absence robs England of their deadliest finisher, who has crossed 19 times in 39 Tests.