Dylan Hartley’s inclusion in England’s elite player squad was only assured after a lengthy conversation with Stuart Lancaster during which the Northampton hooker’s remorse was clear.
Lancaster’s patience with Hartley has yet to be exhausted, but he has been issued with a strong warning by the head coach following his latest brush with the disciplinary authorities that ruled him out of the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia.
Sent off for verbally abusing referee Wayne Barnes in last season’s Aviva Premiership final, Hartley’s 11-week suspension ends on 1 September when the task of proving his temperament can be modified begins once again. Despite his troubled disciplinary record, the 27-year-old is viewed as having a positive influence on the squad, but Lancaster yesterday stressed that he must demonstrate his worth when the new season starts.
“I had a long, hard think about it and had a long conversation with Dylan. I wanted to be reassured that he understands where the line is, what is right and what is wrong,” Lancaster said. “He accepts that and knows he needs a strong start to the season with Northampton as changes can be made with Rob Webber and David Paice pushing hard.”
Six new players have been selected in the 33-strong squad named yesterday in lock Dave Attwood, flanker Matt Kvesic, number eight Billy Vunipola, centre Kyle Eastmond and wings Christian Wade and Marland Yarde. All six apart from Vunipola have been rewarded for their outstanding form during the summer tour to Argentina, while Vunipola is included at the expense of Thomas Waldrom on account of his potential. Calum Clarke, Tom Johnson, James Haskell, Waldrom, Jonathan Joseph and David Strettle have dropped down to the 32-man Saxons squad.
A decision on the captaincy will be made in October and will be based on fitness and form with Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood the leading contenders.
“Up front, David Attwood adds a physical presence to the second row and in Matt Kvesic and Billy Vunipola we have young back row players who will challenge our more established back row players hard,” Lancaster said.
England senior elite squad:
Forwards): D Attwood (Bath), D Cole (Leicester), A Corbisiero (Northampton), T Croft (Leicester), D Hartley (Northampton), M Kvesic (Gloucester), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), B Morgan (Gloucester), G Parling (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins), B Vunipola (Saracens), M Vunipola (Saracens), D Wilson (Bath), T Wood (Northampton), T Youngs (Leicester). Backs: C Ashton (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins), F Burns (Gloucester), D Care (Harlequins), L Dickson (Northampton), O Farrell (Saracens), T Flood (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton), A Goode (Saracens), K Eastmond (Bath), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), C Wade (Wasps), M Yarde (London Irish), B Youngs (Leicester).