It seems like only yesterday that newly appointed England manager Eddie Jones was leading his Japan team to the most unlikely of victories against the mighty South Africa at the Rugby World Cup.
In truth, several months have passed and Jones has headed back west to take charge of England after their equally unlikely early exit from their home tournament. Jones has had to pick an entirely new squad, make big cuts and get the squad ready for the challenge of the Six Nations.
This competition could be one of the most difficult in recent memory with Scotland emerging as a real threat, Wales recalling several of their injured World Cup squad, and the Irish looking for three in a row despite some injury concerns of their own. Then there's the ever-spectacular France – it's a shame we don't always know if they'll be spectacularly good or bad.
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Jones has had to draw on all of his experience as he aims to take the English where Stuart Lancaster couldn't and win the title.
Picking a captain to replace the out of favour and at times uninspiring Chris Robshaw is a decision of paramount importance, yet he's gone ahead and selected a man many consider a wildcard in Dylan Hartley.
Hartley’s commitment to the game is unquestionable, his experience invaluable and his raw power and aggression tough for other front rows to deal with. However, decision making is one of his major flaws. He's a great player, but one with a petulant side that has seen him spend huge periods of time suspended from the game.
With eye-gouging among his grizzly repertoire, Hartley has often been cited as a dirty player because he'll use any trick to gain an advantage. At this stage of his career, he must use his on-field skills which fall within the laws of the game to ensure England get the upper hand. Hartley has all the attributes of a good leader; Jones recognises this and hence has made the right decision to appoint him as captain.
When England begin their campaign with a Calcutta Cup match against Scotland next weekend, they do so knowing they face a side full of confidence. Had it not been for a dubious last-minute penalty we could be talking about our rivals north of the border as semi-finalists. It's important England, Jones and Hartley hit the ground running because anything other than a win simply will not do.
The team in white must start with authority, play to their strengths and exploit the weaknesses of the Scottish. If they can do this then they might justify their pre-tournament favouritism. Fail and all eyes will be on them for the wrong reasons.
Is Dylan Hartley the right man to lead England at the Six Nations? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!
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