England overlooks troubled past to hand Hartley captaincy

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LONDON (AP) — Dylan Hartley was named England rugby captain for the Six Nations on Monday, capping a career recovery that overlooks a dire disciplinary record featuring more than a year's worth of suspensions.

Hartley's offenses include eye-gouging and biting and swearing at a referee, missteps that forced him to miss two World Cups and one British and Irish Lions tour.

England head coach Eddie Jones took a more optimistic approach, saying he sees the 29-year-old Hartley as an "honest, hard-working bloke."

"I admire his aggressive and uncompromising approach to playing rugby," Jones said.

England's Six Nations campaign opens against Scotland on Feb. 6.

Hartley has been capped 66 times by England and was the preferred choice after Jones concluded that England had drifted away from the team's traditional strength of fielding an abrasive pack capable of bullying opponents.

Hartley's leadership and set-piece expertise was something missing during last year's World Cup on home soil when England went out in the group stage.

"It is a huge honor to captain England and a very proud day for me and my family," Hartley said. "I'm really excited about the challenge ahead but in reality leading this squad of players will not fall just to me.

"It's essential for the success of this team that we quickly develop and establish a strong leadership group," he said in a statement. "There are a number of guys in this squad who will all have important leadership roles to play so we can take this team forward."

Hartley, born in Rotorua, New Zealand, moved to England at age 16 and served as Northampton captain from 2009-14. He has missed seven weeks of this season due to a concussion and sat out another game with a rib problem but started Northampton's last two matches.

"Dylan can lead the side with the sort of attitude we want," Jones said. "We want a team with an uncompromising feel about it. The biggest risk was to not take a risk.

"We need to change English rugby and get back to what the rest of the world fears about English rugby and that's their forward play."

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