Dylan Hartley helping England to 'confrontational' best - Courtney Lawes
PA Sport
January 26, 2016
Dylan Hartley speaks with the England players during a training session at Pennyhill Park
Dylan Hartley speaks with the England players during a training session at Pennyhill Park© Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

England cannot wait to return to their "confrontational" best under new captain Dylan Hartley, according to Courtney Lawes.

Hartley's Northampton team-mate Lawes defended the hooker's appointment as England skipper, insisting the 29-year-old will "do the team proud" despite his chequered disciplinary past.

Hartley has racked up 54 weeks of career bans, missing the autumn's World Cup and the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour thanks to his misdemeanours.

Lawes however praised new coach Eddie Jones' bold decision as a clear sign of England's uncompromising approach for the Six Nations.

"Making Dylan captain is definitely a statement of intent," Lawes said. "It's a decision that shows we're going to be confrontational, and that's the way we want it.

"We're going back to our roots, our fundamentals of the game, for a big scrum and maul, and tough defence. We want to make sure that when teams play England they really know they're in a game."

Hartley's litany of transgressions took their greatest toll when his ban for headbutting Saracens' Jamie George led to his removal from England's World Cup squad.

The New Zealand-born front-rower has since admitted he feared he would never play Test rugby again -- but new coach Jones is determined that England dispense with the niceties in a fresh start.

While Hartley's captaincy has been criticised in some quarters, Lawes insists he fully merits the Test armband -- in fact believing his mistakes from the past can help improve his leadership.

"There's lots of different characters in the game who have made mistakes, not just once, not even just twice, who have made several mistakes," Lawes said.

"As long as you can move on, get past it, grow as a player and a person, and a leader, as Dylan has done, then you're going to get rewarded at the end of the day, and that's what's happened here.

"It will be great for him going forward. Anyone who was appointment as captain could have been viewed as controversial in some quarters really.

"I know Dylan will do the team proud and we'll all get behind him. "Dylan's a fun guy, he looks after the boys, which is very important as a skipper.

"You've got to make sure all the guys around you are happy and on the same page, and that's certainly what he brings. He's got a world of experience, he knows when to ramp it up, tell the boys to get their acts together, or when to tell the boys to relax.

"It's no coincidence that we won the Premiership title at Northampton under Dylan's captaincy."

Northampton's Paul Hill is now likely to take a seat on the bench for England's Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield on Feb. 6.

The 20-year-old has been retained as part of Jones' 23 that will now build up to the tournament opener in Edinburgh -- and Lawes is not surprised by his club-mate's inclusion.

A year ago Hill was turning out for Leeds in the Championship, now the German-born front-rower is staring down the barrel of his Test debut.

"He's in the big time now basically," said Lawes of Hill. "He's been awesome for Saints and fully deserves his chance. He's the whole package, he works hard, both on and off the field, and enjoys the game.

"Along with that he's a very talented guy, he's quick for a prop and he's strong, so he'll be a good Test player."

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