Oh and another thing…. 1 of 12

1. How do you solve a problem like Dylan? 17th Dec 2016

How do you solve a problem like Dylan?

Oh it was all going so well. England had beaten Australia finishing the 2016 international season with an unbeaten run of 14 test matches. Strength in depth was clearly developing in a number of positions and the loss of key men such as Itoje and Billy Vunipola had been negotiated successfully with able deputies stepping up. The English rugby men were happily looking forward to their mince pies and turkeys and then….. Dylan’s dark side re-emerged.

One of Eddie’s first decisions when he took the job, was to sideline Chris Robshaw from the captaincy and install Dylan Hartley to lead his team. Eyebrows raised, murmurings about his discipline but as time went on and England grew more and more convincing these ‘noises off’ gradually diminished. England embarked on a winning run which saw them win the Six Nations and whitewash Australia on their tour down under. Follow this with an unbeaten Autumn series and Jones’ appointment of Hartley was seen as a masterstroke. The responsibility had clearly worked on our Dylan and he was now a reformed character, more grown up and now a disciplined leader, well respected all round.

Any Rugby Coach would have known exactly what Eddie was going through as the cameras homed in on him some 6 minutes after his captain had joined the Munster/ Northampton game. Dylan’s demonic side had not gone, it was just hibernating and then burst forth in the form of a crass swinging arm aimed at Sean O’Brien’s head. The cameras immediately swung to Eddie as the inevitable red card was brandished. All he needed was a sniper’s rifle and you can bet Dylan would have been no more.

Hartley was in a prime position. He hadn’t played particularly well in the Autumn series but then he was somewhat undercooked having had an injury stricken close season. However he was the leader of the Northern Hemisphere’s top team and it’s a Lions season. In many circles he was already being touted as a potential Lions Captain.

Hartley has an appalling disciplinary record comprising of 54 weeks of bans for offences including biting, gouging and butting, a track record that had faded into the background but is now under sharp focus once again. Cue lots of ‘leopards and spots’ murmurings. Jones is not one easily knocked of his chosen course and the feeling is that his first instinct is the back his man. However, he will also be mulling over whether Dylan has had his day.

His form hasn’t been great this season and he has a couple of young tyros snapping at his heels in the form of Jamie George and Tommy Taylor. Most observers believe that George is already a better player. A captain has to first and foremost be worth his place and Jones’ ultimate aim is 2019 and making England once again World Champions. Loyalty only goes so far and Jones is not known for his sentimentality. As for the Lions, well they already have a hooker who is leading his country and very successfully in the shape of Rory Best. He doesn’t have a disciplinary problem either.
Hartley’s red card last Friday wasn’t retaliatory, it was pre-meditated and when you consider that he knows there are cameras everywhere it is clear he was out of control. He’s got out of jail before now, but by this act he has shown a nasty, dark side and has betrayed Eddie’s faith in him. Jones is responsible for his rehabilitation and went out on a limb for him. He can be forgiven for thinking, is it bloody worth it?