The new England rugby coach, Eddie Jones, has announced his first squad but hasn’t named a captain. Jones is not obliged to until his first game, which will come in February, and so speculation continues.
Jones will include seven uncapped players in his squad to tackle the Six Nations, though he is likely to opt for some experience when it comes to leading the team. So who are the main contenders?
The present incumbent has the experience and is a good player, but he might be considered too much part of the ‘old guard’. Some have questioned how comfortable he has been as captain, so it might be time for a change.
When Eddie Jones won the World Cup with Australia in 2003, it was scrum-half George Gregan who wore the black armband for the Wallabies. Jones might look for someone he can mould in Gregan’s image, and Youngs might fit the bill.
Since his first inclusion in the team, Launchbury has been impressive and he plays like a leader. Off the field, though, he is very different and might not cope with the media scrutiny.
His passion is not in question, though his discipline has often let him down. Naming Hartley as captain would be a controversial decision and potentially a risky one, as some games will be won and lost on discipline alone.
Similarly to Hartley, Mike Brown has had issues with his discipline. There’s no doubting his commitment, and he regularly shows flashes of brilliance on the field, but a loose cannon like Brown might be too much of a gamble for Jones in the first instance.
Josh Beaumont and Maro Itoje are two of the uncapped players included that might in the running in the future. Watch this space.
Whoever he opts for in the end, he will want their complete buy-in on everything, from going through rugby drills on the training pitch to leading the squad on the field.
In preparation, Eddie Jones will be taking his team back to basics for certain, focusing on skills. He’ll be using training plans like those available on websites such as http://www.sportplan.net/ and gelling the players together.
Whoever leads the team out, we can be sure it’s going to be a great contest and a great Six Nations tournament.