13 May 2017

Jones backs his captain Hartley

11:34 am on 13 May 2017

Eddie Jones insists Dylan Hartley can lead England at the 2019 World Cup if he opts to become the Butcher of Rotorua over the Squire of Northampton.

Dylan Hartley playing for England.

Dylan Hartley playing for England. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

For the first time Jones has opened the door for Hartley to remain at the helm for the entirety of his reign as head coach, having previously viewed the Northampton hooker as a "foundation captain".

Hartley has skippered England for all 17 Tests under Jones, despite repeated concerns over his form, disciplinary record and the presence of Jamie George, who has been preferred for the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

If he demonstrates a hard edge on a sustained basis by adopting the persona of a butcher rather than that of a squire, however, Hartley could earn Jones's loyalty well beyond next month's tour to Argentina.

"Initially it was a two-year plan. After that it was going to come down to whether he's improving as a player and as a captain," Jones said.

"He was measurably better during the Six Nations than he was in November. His captaincy has gone up to another level. There's no reason he can't carry on to 2019.

"It depends how hungry he is - whether he keeps on being the Butcher of Rotorua or becomes the Squire of Northampton."

England rugby coach Eddie Jones.

England rugby coach Eddie Jones. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A more pressing concern for Jones is what the Australian sees as a lack of size among his wings and centres, of whom impact replacement and former NRL star Ben Te'o is the biggest.

Two Tests against the Pumas give Jones the opportunity to experiment and London Irish's giant 19-year-old wing Joe Cokanasiga is an option.

"I'm prepared to gamble with a number of players to see where they can go. I'm convinced we need some more size in the backs," Jones said.

"We've got a very small back line - no players over 94kg - and you need some size in your back line to take on the best in the world.

"We've got a great opportunity to test players on this tour with our Lions away. If they're good enough, they'll play. If they're not they won't. There is an opportunity to lay on depth."