England v Barbarians, Twickenham
Dowson handed England captaincy
ESPN Staff
May 23, 2012
Phil Dowson assesses his options during an England training session, Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Surrey, January 31, 2012
Phil Dowson will skipper England against the Baa-Baas © Getty Images

Northampton Saints flanker Phil Dowson has been handed the England captaincy ahead of their match with the Barbarians on Sunday.

Dowson takes over the reins from Test skipper Chris Robshaw, who leads Harlequins against Leicester in the Aviva Premiership final the previous day. Dowson has been a senior figure in Stuart Lancaster's England squad, even after losing his place in the starting side to Ben Morgan during the Six Nations.

With Morgan recovering from a hamstring injury, Dowson will start against a star-studded Barbarians side and he has been chosen as captain ahead of his club skipper Dylan Hartley.

Hartley is set to play his first game since the Six Nations after serving an eight week ban for biting Ireland flanker Stephen Ferris. England forwards coach Graham Rowntree believes Hartley is a future England captain but this weekend wanted the Northampton hooker to concentrate on his scrummaging. Rowntree said: "The fact he has been out for eight weeks, I want Dylan to focus on playing, to focus on his game and not be saddled with captaincy issues."

Dowson's elevation is a reward for his leadership during the Six Nations as a new-look England team defied the odds to finish second in the championship. And that ability to galvanise a new team is particularly important this week, with 18 members of the touring squad absent on Premiership final duty.

"Phil coped with the disappointment (of losing his place in the team) very well. That is the mark of Phil Dowson," Rowntree said. "He took it on the chin and we all saw the rise of Ben Morgan towards the end of the Six Nations so it wasn't easy for him.

"But he took it on the chin and never stopped giving his experience to the younger guys and giving to the group. He is a great leader. When he makes a point it is worthwhile. We have a strong leadership group at the moment. There are a few guys we could give the captaincy to but we feel Dows is right for this game.

"When you are pulling guys together for the first time, that leadership is important. He will make sure we are right on it. This is a proper game, as intense and as big a game as a Six Nations game for us."

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