England rugby union captain Hartley must earn respect from referees: Mallett

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2016 10:39 AM

By Justin Palmer

LONDON (Reuters) - England rugby union captain Dylan Hartley must earn the respect of referees if he is to become a great leader and justify his appointment by Eddie Jones, according to former South Africa and Italy coach Nick Mallett.

Firebrand Hartley takes over the captaincy from Chris Robshaw and will lead England for the first time in their Six Nations championship opener against Scotland on Saturday.

Hartley, with 66 caps the most experienced player in England's squad, was a brave choice by Jones, given a long record of ill-discipline that has seen the combative hooker banned for 54 weeks.

Mallett said Hartley, now 29, had been handed the chance to show he has matured, despite being punished for head-butting, biting, gouging, swearing at a referee, elbowing and punching during his career.

"Eddie knows what he wants from Dylan Hartley. He's already said he doesn't want him to be less effective as a player on the field. He wants him to be just as abrasive, in your face, and demand the respect of his players," said Mallett, speaking to Reuters as part of his role on the Accenture Analysis Team during the tournament.

"Hopefully, the captaincy from Hartley's point of view will calm his red mist but still allow him to play the game that he is well known for.

"The challenge for Hartley is to earn the respect of referees in the way he conducts himself on the field."

Mallett, 59, was overlooked for the England job in 2012 when Stuart Lancaster was appointed, and was linked with the position again after Lancaster was dismissed following a dismal World Cup showing last year.

Handing the captaincy to Hartley, Mallett said, was a risk that Jones had taken because the Australian wanted England to cast off their image as "nice guys".

He said Hartley should aspire to be leader in the mould of greats like New Zealander Richie McCaw, Australian John Eales and South African John Smit, all of whom have lifted the World Cup.

"Richie McCaw played on the edge and played an incredibly physical game, yet as soon as the whistle goes he had the ability to talk to a referee in a non-confrontational manner, as did John Eales and John Smit," Mallett said.

"All of those guys had a great presence off the field. Eddie Jones has mentioned that he sees that Dylan has this ability off the field.

"But the key to being a successful captain is your ability to handle really difficult situations to the benefit of your team on the field."

Hartley, once sent off in a Premiership final for insulting referee Wayne Barnes, needed to learn how to influence the match official in a good way, Mallett said.

He was not overly optimistic, however.

"He hasn't shown an ability to do that with Northampton."

"Eddie is hoping that maturity will come through and ideally, by the time he is 32, 33, and by the time of the World Cup in 2019, he has developed a rapport with referees."

(Reporting by Justin Palmer; Editing by Alison Williams)