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Neil Francis Tears Into England's Decision To Appoint Dylan Hartley As Captain

Neil Francis Tears Into England's Decision To Appoint Dylan Hartley As Captain
Mikey Traynor
By Mikey Traynor
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The appointment of the immensely dis-likable Dylan Hartley as captain of the England rugby team is a decision that has been met with two reactions from most rugby fans outside of England.

The first is that it's a disgrace to bestow the honor of captaincy to someone which such an appalling disciplinary record as Hartley, and the second is that it's a match made in heaven, which has more often been said with tongue placed firmly in cheek.

Neil Francis left absolutely no doubt as to how he feels towards the appointment in his weekly column for The Independent, where he claimed that it was "an insult to rugby's forgotten code of decency".

Francis started out by criticising the English media for their twist on the news that has been slowly creeping out for weeks:

A six-week whispering campaign harvests Hartley as England's captain with barely a whimper from the English media.

Stuart Lancaster, a decent and honest man who showed strength by keeping Hartley out of his squad, is derided as weak for doing so. Now we are fed the line that "Hartley's uncompromising approach to playing rugby" will galvanise England and give them back their edge. Chris Robshaw's leadership was singularly lacking on a confrontational basis. In reality, poor decision-making cost him the captaincy. Robshaw was also an uncompromising forward but I could never see him gouging a prone player's eye or biting somebody or calling a referee a "f**king cheat".


Francis then went on to express an issue with the manner in which Hartley's is talked about, again in the English media:


Most of the English media pointed to the fact that Hartley's problem is 'a lack of discipline'. A most inappropriate term as it suggests that if Hartley kept his cool that these urges to gouge someone's eyes would not manifest. Are we to think that most rugby players are homicidal maniacs and when they get stoked up on a rugby field they lose their sense of right and wrong? Is it not disturbing to think that the only thing stopping Hartley from his thuggish impulses is a paper-thin sense of discipline?

What goes through Hartley's mind when he attempts to disgorge the contents of another man's eye socket? "Yeah, discipline's gone, have some of my finger in your eye."

Another aspect of Hartley's crimes is the unresolved anger and lack of remorse. The only regret is getting caught and getting sanctioned - occupational hazard.

Before he ended with a suggestion that we shouldn't even be having this discussion, as Hartley should not be allowed to play anymore:

Hartley, year in, year out, has committed acts of foul play that are completely unacceptable. Bans and token bans were not going to solve the problem. He should have got a lifetime ban a few years ago. Surely his previous crimes would preclude him from being installed to the prestige of the captaincy. How is it possible to think that he could set good example for . . . anyone?

Strong words, but it's hard to argue with the former Leinster and Ireland forward.


In particular his point on the narrative in the English media is a good one, as it is simply baffling that the idea has not been contested greatly since it became clear that it was being considered.

Hartley has shown repeatedly that he does not hold the same values that one would look for in a captain, yet he will lead his country out in the 2016 Six Nations. The England coaching setup are effectively gambling on him not committing another bannable offense, something that you would not get tempting odds on were you to ask a bookmaker.



SEE ALSO: Reaction To England's Incredibly Divisive Decision To Appoint Dylan Hartley As Captain

SEE ALSO: Neil Francis Has A Wise Word Of Caution Over All Of The Garry Ringrose Hype

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