Jamie George challenges England captain Dylan Hartley for a starting spot after impressing in the British and Irish Lions jersey
British and Irish Lions hooker, Jamie George, stands poised to usurp England captain Dylan Hartley. After a stellar performance in the Lions test series against New Zealand, Jamie George proves he is not just a finisher but a test starter.
Questions will be raised as to why England head coach Eddie Jones keeps the best hooker in the lions squad on the bench for England. Current England captain Dylan Hartley was excluded from Warren Gatland’s touring squad the summer and will face more pressure than ever from the now three time test starter George.
With darts Phil Taylor would be proud of and a nose for a gap the great Brian O'Driscoll would applaud, the Saracens man has mastered the basics of his role. Rather spectacularly, George has also shown offloading and kicking skills reminiscent of the aforementioned Lions legend O'Driscoll. Below are two superb tries George set up for Owen Farrell in 2016.
But Hartley should not be ruled out quite yet. Being a leader is all about driving standards both on the off the pitch. Reportedly, Hartley is the best at this in the current England set up, a clear leader able to push the team to their limits. Leeway will be found for Hartley considering his captaincy. But, should Jones feel he can no longer ignore George's quality he will be forced to choose another captain or captains. In the media Jones openly admitted to liking the idea of a leadership group. Should Jones perceive there to be a lack of standout leaders we could see the likes of Farrell, Mike Brown, Ben Youngs, and Maro Itoje placed in a position of co-captaincy.
Whether Hartley is left on the bench as a further co-captain or left out of the 23 altogether, is yet to be seen. However, considering his experience and caps it would be hard to believe Jones would drop his main man. If the England captain is dropped to the bench he will face further challenges. Exeter Chiefs Luke Cowan-Dickie and Wasps Tommy Taylor will want to follow George's lead. Young and out to prove themselves, Cowan-Dickie and Taylor will be in the thoughts of head coach Jones, desperate for their opportunity to break into the regular match day 23.
For all the speculation, it is down to Jones to decide whether his captain stays or goes. But England fans should be hopeful, hooker is an extremely competitive position for the national side, which will keep the starting man on his toes. As a result of this battle for the number 2 jersey standards will be driven through the roof running up to the 2019 rugby World Cup in Japan.