South Africa v England, Port Elizabeth, June 23
Hartley 'honoured' by captaincy
June 22, 2012
Dylan Hartley will dish out the orders on Saturday © Getty Images
Dylan Hartley has admitted that he never considered the possibility that he would end up captaining England on this tour.
Hartley sat out the final two months of the campaign after being hit with an eight-week ban for biting in March but was included in the squad for the tour. And with Chris Robshaw sidelined through injury, Stuart Lancaster handed the captain's armband to Hartley with the hooker understandably 'honoured' by the decision.
"I had two months off so I set goals and targets and I am just happy to be back playing and within the group," Hartley said. "There was obvious disappointment at picking up the ban but the silver lining to it was I got eight weeks to refocus and train towards something.
"I have been rewarded I suppose, getting back into the Test side and I have enjoyed being back. Obviously I was hugely honoured and privileged to be asked to be captain.
"I was flattered the coaches came to me and asked, although I am also disappointed for Chris Robshaw. He has led us very well."
England have been hit by injury this week with Robshaw, Ben Youngs and Ugo Monye all sidelined. And Alex Corbisiero was a late withdrawal after sustaining a knee injury in training. Assistant coach Mike Catt admitted it was a "big blow for Alex" but it is "one of those things you have got to take on the chin and get on with".
Catt himself appears to have made a positive impression on the players since being brought on to the backroom staff by Lancaster for the tour. Having left London Irish to take up the position, it is a challenge he himself has also enjoyed.
"It has been unbelievable, genuinely amazing," said Catt. "I have loved every single second of it, coming back to South Africa, and the players have been fantastic. The environment Stuart has put in place over the last six months has been unbelievable. Where Stuart is going is in the right direction."
Lancaster is still thought to be looking for another coach and Catt's position will be reviewed at the end of the tour, but he is not thinking about that now. "I will focus on tomorrow," he said. "My job is to win a Test match, then we will see where we go."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.