Dylan Hartley’s British and Irish Lions snub is the beginning of the end, and former England captain Lewis Moody believes this summer’s tour of Argentina will be the last time he is seen with the red rose stitched upon his chest.
The Kiwi-born England captain was overlooked for Warren Gatland’s 41-man touring party of his native New Zealand this summer, with Wales’ Ken Owens, Ireland captain Rory Best and his England understudy Jamie George all selected ahead of him.
It is the second time Hartley has missed out on a Lions squad after he was initially selected before losing his place after being dealt an 11-game ban for verbally abusing a match official after a red card in the Premiership final for Leicester.
After a number of other indisciplines, which also led to him missing the 2015 World Cup, Hartley fought his way back into England contention and was given the task of being the on-field general of Eddie Jones’ revolution.
However, while that Lions snub ended up with him fighting his way back with England, World-Cup winner Moody believes there will be no way back this time and that his time as England skipper, and international player, will be over come the end of the summer.
“I think it’s likely that we might not see Dylan in an England shirt again [after the tour of Argentina], just because there’s so much quality coming through,” Moody told The Independent. “I don’t think Dylan Hartley has underperformed, I just think he is under pressure from the likes of Jamie George and other young players in that England squad that have probably just usurped him.
“Eddie Jones picked the captain for that two-year block, which he has now come to the end of, and I think even Eddie Jones recognises that Hartley’s place was under pressure from Jamie George and that is why he came off at about 50 minutes in all of the Six Nations matches.”
Jones has always made it clear that his target was assembling a team ready to win the World Cup in 2019 in Japan – and that goal was made all-the-clearer following the conclusion of this year’s Six Nations.
Hartley will be 33 by the time that World Cup comes around and Moody thinks that Jones will be on the search for a new leader for the next two-year block, leading up to Japan, meaning the hooker will have to rely on form, rather than leadership, to be selected.
“It depends on Eddie and does he see Dylan as his England captain to take him through to the World Cup?” Moody added. “I think we all know the answer to that and that is that he will probably be looking for a new leader for 2019.
“So that means he will be edging towards a new leader for next year.
“Then it will come down to is Dylan Hartley the form hooker or in the top three or four in the country? It [the end of his international career] will be a shame, but it’s the likely eventuality given the form and fitness of the other guys.”
Lewis Moody is a member of The NatWest RugbyForce, bringing his playing and coaching experience to help grassroots clubs improve their coaching expertise. To register for a chance to have Lewis join your rugby club, visit www.englandrugby.com/natwestrugbyforce