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Hartley feared for England captaincy

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/01/2017 Duncan Bech
Dylan Hartley © Andrew Boyers/REUTERS Dylan Hartley

Dylan Hartley feared he had jeopardised his England captaincy after receiving a third red card of his career that he views as a reality check.

New Zealand-born and raised Hartley was confirmed as skipper at the official launch of the Six Nations on Wednesday.

The Northampton hooker was sent off for striking Sean O'Brien during a Champions Cup defeat by Leinster on December 3, an offence that resulted in a six-week suspension that only ended on Monday.

By the time France visit Twickenham for the Six Nations opener on February 4, the 30-year-old will not have played for over two months and his disciplinary record now consists of 60 weeks' worth of bans.

The enforced lay-off has given Hartley time to reflect on an act that he knows placed his position in doubt.

He believed he had compromised his captaincy.

"I always reflect and do that most days. Being part of this group is a privilege," he said.

"We want to be the best team in the world and to be a part of that and feel it is going somewhere is a privilege. I have had a good reality check."

When Hartley was asked if he had changed his game in response to the third red card of his career, coach Eddie Jones interrupted: "He's had 60 weeks off mate, he's a world expert."

On the instruction of Jones, Hartley has been practising his defensive technique during England's training camps in Brighton and Portugal after felling O'Brien with a swinging arm from behind.

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