Hartley facing similar scrutiny to World Cup hero Johnson, says Moody

Lewis Moody believes Dylan Hartley is in a similar situation to the scrutiny Martin Johnson faced before leading England to Rugby World Cup glory in 2003.

Northampton Saints hooker Hartley has been retained as captain for the Six Nations, despite having seen his club form heavily criticised this season.

The emergence of Jamie George, who earned a spot in the British and Irish Lions' squad ahead of his England team-mate, has also cranked up the pressure on Hartley.

But Moody is backing Hartley to deliver, and pointed to the example of Johnson, who was under pressure from the likes of Danny Grewcock and Steve Borthwick for a starting berth before captaining his country to a first World Cup triumph.

When asked by Omnisport if England coach Eddie Jones is right to retain Hartley as captain, Moody, a Land Rover Ambassador, said: "It's a tough question.

"It reminds me a little bit of Martin Johnson in that 2002 era when he was in his early-to-mid 30s and the questions were coming around his form and if he deserved his place with guys like Ben Kay, Danny Grewcock and Steve Borthwick all pushing hard for places. 

"But, ultimately, guys like Johnson go out and prove themselves on the pitch. Martin was a world-class player and leader, so for Dylan, he has similar questions being asked to him, is he deserving of his place? Only he can answer that. 

"He'll be well aware of the pressures he'll have with the likes of Jamie George, who snuck ahead of him for the Lions. Not only Jamie but the guys further down the camp, you think of Tom Dunn, and there's that pressure coming through. 

"But that just adds to the quality England can produce because that competition for places drives individuals to perform and negates that complacency that creeps in if people don't have pressure on them."

Moody is impressed by the wealth of leadership options in England's ranks and earmarked Saracens powerhouse Maro Itoje as capable of being a future captain.

But the former Leicester Tigers and Bath flanker believes the loyalty shown by Jones is one of the reasons England have impressively lost just once under his stewardship. 

The World Cup winner added: "It'll be interesting to see how Dylan goes, because with 2019 around the corner, if it's not going to be Dylan leading them then who will it be?

"One thing Eddie Jones will be excited about is he's got guys like Owen Farrell and George Ford who have captained their club sides, Chris Robshaw has captained England before, but [he's] also got a guy like Maro Itoje who's growing and growing in form, consistency and experience.

"If I was Eddie going forward and he decided that Dylan wasn't going to be captain or wasn't in form then I'd probably be looking at Maro Itoje. 

"But Hartley is such a figure head for that England side at the moment, it would come down to his form and if he goes out in the first few games [of the Six Nations] and doesn't deliver then Eddie has proven in the past that no one is bigger than the game or team and I'm sure he'll be thinking about his replacements.

"But also that loyalty Eddie shows to the team is another reason they're doing so well and a reason Dylan is able to keep playing and be the leader he is because he has the confidence of the coach, that trust of the coach is important."

Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover has a heritage in rugby at all levels; from grassroots to elite, supporting the game for two decades. @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal

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