England head coach Eddie Jones has refused to be drawn on whether controversial hooker Dylan Hartley will be appointed captain but insists his skipper will be expected to uphold exemplary behaviour.
Jones delivered the expected shake-up of England’s squad for the Six Nations by selecting seven uncapped players, including Sale forward Josh Beaumont, Saracens lock Maro Itoje, Harlequins back-row forward Jack Clifford and Wasps centre Elliot Daly.
The axe fell on World Cup flops Tom Youngs, Brad Barritt, Tom Wood and Geoff Parling, while Sale fly-half Danny Cipriani was overlooked for the 33-man squad despite scoring 75 Premiership points this term.
Northampton’s Hartley has been heavily tipped to succeed Chris Robshaw, who was also named in the squad, as England captain despite a chequered disciplinary record which includes chalking up more than a year’s worth of suspensions.
“Your captain’s got to be your best player. He’s got to be one of the first selected in the team, and then he’s got to lead by example,” said Jones, who said his eventual appointment would initially be for the Six Nations only.
“He needs to set standards for the team in terms of how we operate off the field, how we operate on the field and he’s got to be a conduit between the coaching staff and the players. We’ve got 33 players, then it gets down to 23, then we have to pick 15. I’ll worry about the captain then.”
Speculation over Robshaw’s place in the England XV has been rife since the 29-year-old led England during their ill-fated World Cup campaign last year, although Jones offered some encouraging words for the Harlequins flanker.
“We’re not going to have any six and a halves. We want a six and a seven. Chris Robshaw has been playing brilliantly at six and he will be pushing hard for that place,” added Jones.
The changes made by Jones represent profound surgery from the era of his predecessor Stuart Lancaster, while the former Japan coach also hinted at the adoption of a more attacking brand of rugby.
“How do you define radical? Radical, for me, would be playing really good rugby,” said Jones. “Good rugby means you do all the simple things well and when you get the opportunity, you move the ball with crispness, with accuracy and with speed. If that’s radical, you’ve got radical coming.”