Poll: Who should captain England for the Six Nations?

England’s leadership is another problem that has been cited too often to mention, so what should be done about it? Change the captain perhaps.

We’ve been debating this one for some time, and there are lots of different opinions – we will be watching the results very closely, so please do cast your vote.

Feel free to leave your rationale in the comments box below.

Who should captain England in the Six Nations?

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37 thoughts on “Poll: Who should captain England for the Six Nations?

  1. I promise i’m not in a pessimistic mood, this is my honest appraisal – i don’t think any of them are good candidates.

    Borthwick – not a good enough player
    Wilkinson – has too much else to consider
    Moody – playing well, don’t burden him with it as it might disrupt his play and he isn’t used to it (is he?)
    Hartley – not quite cemented his place…but probably the best candidate
    Haskell – doesn’t seem to completely “get” the rules!
    Hodgson – not going to be picked
    Easter – fairly good option but not necessarily going to be picked
    Tindall – injuries
    Vickery – needs to focus on playing, might not last until 2011
    Croft – not experienced enough + doesn’t display leadership qualities

    So my vote is for Hartley!

  2. Under the circumstances, he should probably make it a game-by-game selection. As Spike says, there are no obvious candidates (though there are clearly better candidates than Borthwick).

  3. Mike Tindall has -1% of the votes – cracking effort!

    Spike, I’m with you – took one look at the list and by a process of elimination it just has to be Hartley, assuming he starts. None of the others deserve it – ideally, I’d like it to go to a youngster but Croft doesn’t seem influential enough and Haskell is still petulant. Rees if he’s fit would be my choice, but on current form Moody would keep him out of the side.

    Perhaps we need to expand the blame from the coaching set-up and identify the fact that we just don’t have world class players or leaders at the moment.

  4. Interesting point Justin, but aren’t coaches meant to bring out the best in players? This clearly isn’t happening with England, and unfortunately your right, many of our starting players aren’t world class – those one’s are left out of the team so that the likes of Borthwick, Deacon, Goode, Hipkiss, Banahan, Payne etc etc can all be included. We have the players, we simply don’t play them. As for captain, I honestly think Moody deserves a shot. Maybe he’d do a good job, maybe he wouldn’t, but unless we try we’ll never know. Like the idea of doing it match by match as well – it may also help bring out leadership qualities in players that don’t yet even realise they have those qualities

  5. For me, Moody has to be the guy. His own form has been a step above his teammates, he is guaranteed a starting place and is an experienced member of the team.

    He has also shown far more maturity than his early days and his post match interviews have been impressive, displaying the right amount of candour, disappointment and still maintaining the desire and heart to improve.

    There are no other obvious candidates and I do think the captain is better as a forward; the proximity to the referee and the ability to subtley influence decisions is absolutely key to captaincy – watch Richie McCaw and notice how often he is chatting to the referee; the initial impact may be negligible but the cummulative affect of highlighting the opponents transgressions is an important facet of captaincy, which is difficult to do from the backs.

  6. Tommy: “aren’t coaches meant to bring out the best in players?” – that is exactly the point. I’m sick of hearing people say that Johnno’s just unlucky because he doesn’t have the raw materials to work with. The same people say that SCW was just lucky to have so many players come good at the right time. It’s not luck. All of those players had been firmly under the wing of SCW and team for a few years, and that’s WHY they were so good. Each of them flourished under his reign, and achieved their true potential. And it was not all about skill – leadership ability was a key criteria, and many players were weeded out because they could not lead or were inclined to go missing when things went pear shaped.

    Now contrast with the Johnno approach. He’s not a natural leader, and he doesn’t understand what good leadership looks like. I find it odd that people talk about how he was such a strong leader as England captain. If Dallaglio hadn’t made a stupid mistake, he would probably have been captain through 2003, and in my view he has much broader leadership skills than Johnno ever did. And what is Johnno doing to nurture talent of the future? Well, I think enough has been written about that here. Let me just say this – we always say that the future of English rugby is promising because of the youngsters coming through, yet we consistently fail to convert them into world class. Go figure.

  7. Regardless of the autumn he’s just had, Moody would have got my vote anyway. My only concern is the idea of building an England team around a player who might be able to feature and lead for many years to come. Lewis may not quite be this character, in which case someone like Hartley could be a good choice, but will he always be first selection in Johnno’s eyes with everyone fit? Tough call.

  8. Moody’s form has been great but I’m sure he won’t maintain it if he has the burden of captain. There’s a serious lack of options at the moment, but then we had Corry for far too long (more than one game). My vote would be for Simon Shaw – experienced enough, fierce enough, wise enough. It would also give him the confidence that he would actually make the team every time, giving England some much needed stability in the pack.

    The most aweful thought from the weekend is that Andy Robinson managed to scrape a win over Australia, worringly foreshadowing that he may manage to win against England in the 6 Nations.

  9. My maths is pretty sh1te, but how has Mike Tindall managed to get -2% of the vote?

    I’m a firm believer that the captain should be a forward so he can discuss the technicalities of scrummaging/line outs/breakdown with the ref. With that in mind, my vote is for Lewis Moody now and Hartley in a couple of years.


  10. Two votes for Borthwick you say? Who’d have thought that he and his Mum both read this blog eh?

    I agree with Mat about giving out the captaincy on a short term basis. After all, even assuming that all are fit (a big assumption at the moment) none of the more experienced players in the current set-up are guaranteed their places up to the RWC.

    The rotation system worked well for Capello with the football team. I wish the rugby team had as many viable options as he had though. If we don’t properly give it to someone it puts the onus on people to lay claim to it by showing some guts and determination and leadership (imagine the polar opposite of Borthwick – that’s what I mean).

    I think that Hartley and Moody both have it within them to do the job, but let’s just say they’ve both shown a slight tendency to lose their cool at some point in their careers. Croft also has potential and I think he’s getting a bad press at the moment considering he toured with the Lions and looks like a man in need of rest right now.

    Giving the captaincy to JW would be asking for trouble with his injury record, even if he does have probably the best leadership qualities of the above list.

    Yes, Haskell is a worry, but you never know – Johnno’s disciplinary record as a youngster wasn’t a lot better, but he grew in to the role.

    Our options are pretty crap when you look at it, but I pray to God that Borthwick is out of the team altogether very very soon.

  11. I’ll put my hand up — I voted for Borthwick. Only once, though, so I assume that after the England coaching staff had thrown their votes in, Borthy’s mum voted more than once.

    My reason is that, well, in the absence of a decent alternative, better to go for consistency. Johnno seems determined to pick him, and he’s got the most experience. Jonny hardly needs more to worry about; Moody plays too close to the edges of the laws; Hartley is a thug and is only second-string in any case; and Haskell, as Spikey says, doesn’t seem to be entirely sure of the laws of the game.

    I’d love to see Big Shawsy as captain — he can out-Johnno Johnno, and he’s clearly decided that he’s going to play into his 50s. And that way he’d have his shirt nailed on, leaving the option to pair him with Kennedy, Lawes, or whoever else comes through. Tom Rees might be a good choice if he ever walks again. Or how about a wildcard — what about Matt Stevens in a few years, assuming he gets back to his previous form? By then he must surely have developed a way to deal with pressure, as well as plenty of real-world experience; he shouldn’t have any trouble charming referees; he can talk turkey about the set-piece; and finally, if he does get his form back, he should be the top pick in his position — even Vickery can’t go on forever…

    In the meantime, though, the rotation policy is probably the only realistic one given the state of these guys’ bodies. It would also help to develop a group of leaders in the squad.

  12. A brave admission Stephen! I can’t argue with you about his experience, and I think even his harshest critic would admit that on his day, he’s capable of playing to an international standard.

    What irks me about him though is that he hardly seems to communicate with the players on the pitch. In the Argentina game, we clearly either didn’t have a game plan or we weren’t sticking to it (or maybe both) and yet there were no pep talks from him during stoppages, or bollockings dished out for mistakes or giving away penalties.

    I’m sure he had a few words at half time, but if his interview on this site the other day is anything to go by, I can’t imagine that being anything particularly stirring. On that interview he seems to like a lot of platitudes and excuses like “international rugby is tough” and seems to think that nothing is wrong and time will magically sort things out.

    And I don’t think he’s been consistent enough either – I think Shaw and Kennedy are both better players when fully fit, and there have definitely been games where I think he’s only in because he’s captain, so it’s annoying to see him keep his place but not do much to get the team talking on the pitch.

    I think you could be right about Stevens – he seemed a really level headed guy beforehand and I am sure he will learn from his mistakes and rise above it all.

  13. I voted for Moody because of his current form, and his cap count is one of the largest for the current squad.

    I am curious about a few comments i’ve read here regarding Haskell and his inability to “get” the rules??

    I for one wanted to vote for Haskell, as i see him as one of only two backrowers with potential to consistently make the team, the other is Croft. I think Haskell is the single most explosive No. 8 in the northern hemisphere right now, possibly the world. Watch how he come out of the scrums in the NZ test, and I dare you to not be impressed.

    So if i am wrong, or am missing something, please enlighten me to the error of mays supporting Haskell.

  14. *edit to previous post

    ..singe most explosive *backrower*…

    is what i ment to say as he is equally impressive at 6 .

  15. Zooski, I think people are referring to his tendency for giving away needless penalties, most notably in this year’s 6N. I forget the opponents and the victim, but there was one very silly late challenge after the ball had gone.

    Granted, he wasn’t exactly the only one with a discipline problem in the Enlgand squad at the time, far from it, but his indiscretions tended to be very needless a lot of the time.

    He does have the ability to be one hell of a player though, be it at 6, 8 or wherever. The thought of him, Croft and Rees all fully fit and not overplayed (like Croft right now) is a very exciting one. Haskell does need to sort the discipline though. For that reason I don’t think he’s captaincy material yet, but he can still be a key decision maker for England, which as we know is what a great side needs, rather than just a captain that takes all the burden.

  16. I agree with Tommy. I think Borthwick needs to now hand the reins over to Moody. He is a fantastic player and at the moment is keeping Rees out of the side. His enthusiasm every game is unflinching and everyone can see this – we now need to give him a shot otherwise we will not know. He leads from the front and he needs this opportunity to shut the critics up and display what a class player (when he isn’t injured) he is.

    Ahhh – I feel better. I shall now return to my cave…..

  17. After the NZ test about 2 summer’s ago, I was sure that Rees would be captain by now…..if only for injuries. It has to be someone that can challenge the very best in the world, which both he and Haskell did in both matches in that series. If fit, it is a simple choice. Rees for captain, with Moody changing to 6 where he started international rugby. For now, earlier suggestion of Shaw would be a sound choice. Anyone bar Borthwick, who wouldn’t be in most people’s team, which is an essential for the skipper. Maybe when Shawsy’s ready to retire, Rees might actually be able to last more than 3 club games!

  18. Paul Hodgson would make a terrific skipper. He’s the best scrum half we’ve got and he is a feisty character, always chivvying his pack. He fills in for Bob Casey at London Irish when Bob isn’t available, so he has experience of the job. At 27 he is the right age as well.

  19. Fellas,
    Simon Shaw extremely well against NZ. Most of the team raised their games except Borthwick! He appears to have np passion for the game as well as not firing up the team as said (penalties etc). My vote is give the captaincy to Lewis Moody. His discipline may be iffy but he has the passion and desire to win these games. He is currently on a par with Richie McCall when you look at how much time he spent in Dan Carters face!
    The captaincy will either be too much for Moody or he will grow with it and flourish. Either way, he deserves a chance.

  20. Steve Borthwick should remain captain of England for the six nations.
    He is Martin Johnson’s selection and we should have a bit more faith in Jonno and Borthwick – after all, England did come second in last year’s tournament, ahead of both Wales and France and only second-best to an on-form, grand-slam-winning Ireland. Borthwick was captain then and he should be captain again this time round. He is a good leader and respected by the team.

  21. As always, it is easy for people to make off the cuff choices when, frankly, they haven’t a clue. As it stands, we do not know how the injured players will perform when (if?) they return. Therefore, judgement is probably best if based on the current squad .. of whom no-one really stands out. But then, even Martin Johnson who is now an icon took some time to grow into the job. Reality is that Borthwick will be given that time.

    I can see the idea of Lewis Moody as captain for his commitment and “follow me” style (and I am a big fan of his), but I do not think his role in the team lends itself to the armband job .. he probably would not see enough of the overall picture.

    From what we have seen in the AIs and, to some extent his performance and attitude at Irish, I have selected Paul Hodgson. Not only has he quickly started to up his game to the required level and therefore likely to be first choice selection, but he also shows some leadership potential and communications skills. I have some sympathy with the idea that the skipper should be a forward .. scrum half is probably close to that in the role of bridging forwards and backs. I do not think Hodgson will be reticent in talking to the Ref. either.

  22. Paul Hodgson is the only choice. He’s the best player we have in that position, he has the character and is in ideal position to talk to ref.
    We should then have Shaw as pack leader, clear leader of men by example but wouldn’t have the head or the words for captaincy.
    Borthwick doesn’t deserve to start never mind captain the side, he stands off watching too much and makes no attempt to galvanise the side.
    Moody plays too much on the edge so needs to stay out of the refs sight as much as possible.
    Jonny already has enough responsibility.
    Croft and Haskell need to be allowed to grow and expand their game. Due to injury Jonno has been forced to play the best back row we have, now let them get on with it.
    Hartley and Tindall aren’t guaranteed selection and both Easter and Vickery, like Borthwick, shouldn’t be first choice.
    Now where do we play Tait?

  23. Going back a few posts to Zooski – I’m a big fan of Haskell’s and when you’ve got someone with his raw pace, strength and fitness you should give him an extended run in the team and mould other players around him.

    The ruling he seems to get pinged for more than any other world-class back-rower is offside at the breakdown. He may have improved this since leaving Wasps but he used to give an average of two or three penalties a game for going in from the side, breaking away from the breakdown before the ball was out and handling in the ruck. When a world-class team is trying to keep the penalty count in single figures you can’t afford to have one man giving three penalties away.

    However, those are things he can (and may have already) improve on whereas you can’t make an immaculate, non-offending back-rower into a huge, rapid monster if he isn’t born that way.

    I’m glad he’s been brought back into the England fold but i don’t think he’s captain material…although he clearly thinks he is if the rumours about why he left Wasps are true!

  24. As has already been mentioned, hardly any of the above are decent options to captain England. However, Hartley has shown for the Saints that he can be responsible and leads from the front in a manner that all players should strive for. Once Tom Croft gets a decent number of games under his belt, he could be a contender…. as for Borthwick, he shouldn’t even be in the side, let alone captain. Lawes or Kennedy should partner Shaw in the 2nd row. The sooner Borthwick goes, the better, and you never know, we might win some games!!!

  25. I may be in the minority but, despite his age I would go for Shaw. He is the one player who is fervent in wearing the England shirt and his experience would bring out the best from lesser players

  26. How about none of the above :(

    Borthwick – not good enough player proven to be anonymous as a leader
    Wilkinson – is to be fair pretty busy already
    Moody – One of the few standouts in the team, but lets be honest he is not a thinker so the captaincy would get in the way of him making a nuisance of himself.
    Hartley – Has the passion, though presently not a cert of the team sheet and prone to the red mist (that said so was Jonno)
    Haskell – Finally playing at 8 (though still learning), but a penalty machine!
    Hodgson – nope
    Easter – Lacks any sort of presence for england, i know he has a lot of fans but I like to see an aggressive carrying 8 more in the mold of Laurence D
    Tindall – Clearly fragile, other wise would probably be a good shout.
    Vickery – needs to focus on his scrumaging and staying in one piece.
    Croft – along with Moody the only other thing we can currently be pleased about in the forwards.

    Oh dear it appears that we have run out of options.

    Bring in Kennedy and Shaw (I would like to see Attwood get a run from the bench, but have no issue with Lawes),

    Give Shaw the captaincy, an old head in form with the passion and determination that is missing, I agree with Mike T on this one!

  27. to be perfectly frank it’s not the captain that’s the problem.

    it’s the lack of leaders through the team. Look at SA, they have a cpatian at prop/hooker, how can he watch and observe the game?

    Answer he can’t, he relies on Botha and Matfield, Du Preez, and a spine of other players to feed him the info he needs and so on..where is that in the england team. Nobody talks to anybody else, there is little or no communication so how can you expect anyone to lead that team.

  28. I think Croft plays the right ‘go forward’ style which Englands’ forwards seem to have forgotten how to play. With him leading from the front the rest will have no choice but to follow. While we’re at it,lets get rid of this ‘ guard / bodyguard’ static bull and get back to playing rugby as it was intended.

  29. Don’t see a stand-out captain amongst them. But you pick your best available 15 and then choose a skipper. Borthwick doesn’t make the starting 15, although possibly the bench. My England 2nd row would be Shaw & Kennedy. Maybe Kennedy could grow into the captaincy but I can’t see how he could walk into it from day 1. I agree with all the previous contributors who stress how important it is to have a captain who can work on the referee about what’s going on in the front row. That’s Borthwick’s biggest weakness; he just doesn’t do it. Back row should be Croft, Moody & Haskell:- but I don’t see a captain there. Hodgson? At least he’d be close enough to the referee all the time. I’ve captained a team from no 9 before and it does give you an advantage over the other side’s skipper (unless he’s a no 9 too!)

  30. Borthwick is so off the pace he should have been dropped from the Eps, the only reason he is still in the Eps is because Rees is injured and the Leicester coaches don’t want to pair Kennedy with Shaw so the line-out will work which has always been the better option since the year dot!!

  31. One thing — among the thousands of others — that worries me is Andrew and Johnson’s excuse that 40% of their players were injured this autumn. They imply that the natural state of things is that all players are fit and available, and that everything will be fine when things return to that state. With any luck, Armitage, Tindall, Sheridan and the like will be back for the Six Nations — but who knows who else will be injured by then? The IRB clearly aren’t interested in making any sensible changes, and the accountants aren’t going to declutter the fixture list by getting rid of ridiculous competitions like the Anglo-Welsh and Challenge cups, or extra Test matches that don’t really mean anything. I suspect that we’ll see more first-choice England players moving to France, or possibly even further abroad, in the next couple of years just so that they can keep playing into their 30s.

    So Moody might be playing well at the moment — although he’s not “keeping Rees out of the side”, Bazza, injury is — but the odds are against him staying fit all the way through the Six Nations. If this is going to be the way of things in the modern game, at least in England, then the England manager’s job is always going to be to cobble together 22 players from whoever is still standing. Another reason why a rotating captaincy makes the most sense.

  32. Maybe it’s time to revisit the rationale for having a captain who is selected for all of a series of games i.e. 6N?
    As the squad, let alone the team changes with injuries, tactics, opposition etc. why not follow the system of picking the team and then selecting the captain for the game?
    I actually voted for Nick Easter despite him not captaining Harlequins.

  33. The best thing for any rugby team is stability particularly in the key positions.

    The England selectors have, for whatever reasons, chopped and changed and now need to settle their squad by picking genuine leaders in the key positions.

    One wag suggested Lewis Moody as skipper – with his injury record and propensity for getting yellow carded – you’re having a laugh!

  34. Steve Borthwick has shown an ability to hold a team of “less injured than others” together over the autumn series. Why should he not be selected for the captains role for the six nations?

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