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Your NewsWHO WILL CAPTAIN ENGLAND?

Monday 18th January 2010
WHO WILL CAPTAIN ENGLAND?

Former England captain Will Carling is a big tease. Tweeting today Carling said he was meeting Martin Johnson but could not say why.
 
Was it perhaps that Jonno wanted Will's advice on the merits, or otherwise, of stunning English rugby and appointing a young captain out of the blue, effectively skipping a generation?
 
Well England have not got any thrusting young Army officers in their line-up in the mould of Carling and the thought of Johnson, stubborn as he is loyal, gambling on such a move would be totally out of character. It would also, World Cup winning legend or not, be Johnson's last call as England manager if he got it wrong.
 
A captain first and foremost has to be worth his place, which does not give Johnson many options. The only two certainties for a Six Nations start are Simon Shaw, who despite being the world's tallest and heaviest Peter Pan, cannot be the future for much longer and Lewis Moody. 'Mad Dog' would be a popular choice in the 'follow me into ruck hell and never mind the Adidas centipede on your head', but not necessarily the cool head to call the shots in the heat of battle.
 
If Johnson did dare to skip a generation then England hooker Dylan Hartley, doing such an admirable job leading Northampton Saints in their twin assaults on European and Premiership summits, is a contender. But little Englanders would cause a stink smellier than the geysers of Hartley's New Zealand homeland of Rotorua.
 
James Haskell is another young man with great leadership qualities and as a Wellington alumnus ticks (or tucks) the public school box - no videos please. But Haskell, despite being an awesome talent, still has much to learn and an England back-row place to nail down. Also I cannot quite see Jonno going for a captain who plays his club rugby in Paris wearing a pink, flowery jersey. The Stade Francais forward and former Wasp loves to shoot the breeze and would probably prematurely announce he'd been appointed on Twitter. He's well worth a follow by the way.
 
For sheer rugby wit and savvy then Harlequins number eight Nick Easter is your man. The great Dean Richards may have sullied his off-field reputation, but on the field there is a touch of Richards about Easter. He, at ambling pace, plots the shortest route from breakdown to breakdown, but wins most of the arm wrestles at close quarters and invariably gives you go-forward, even from a standing start. He has great hands too, with deft offloads.
 
Easter is also calm under pressure and a go-to man if defensively you want to run down the clock, or offensively as you enter the umpteenth phase deep into injury time is going to make the match-winning inches, or the game-breaking play. Fast of thought, if not foot.
 
What about Jonny? Wilkinson got a lot of stick for playing it safe in the pocket during the Autumn internationals, but has found a new lease of life - fitness and the sun off the Med helps - down in Toulon, playing alongside Everything Rugby's very own Tom May. 
 
Does Jonny need the extra pressure of captaincy? What extra pressure does it exert if you have the right 14 men around you? And an outside-half has to boss the game and bark orders, captain or not.
 
The thought of Shaw alongside Courtney Lawes in the English engine room is an enthralling one, but you suspect Johnson will stick with Steve Borthwick as his captain - a man of perspiration, not inspiration. it is not salt of the earth England need on the Six Nations path, but a sprinkling of stardust. 

Posted by: , on January 18th 2010 on 11:32pm
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