Not in selecting him in his squad for the Six Nations – no argument there as regards the man who led England to the Grand Slam last season. No, the issue here is Jones’s reluctance to release Hartley to play what would amount to a warm-up game for Northampton next weekend.
Hartley’s suspension for his assault on Leinster’s Sean O’Brien means he will go into the championship with no competitive rugby under his belt for eight weeks.
Jones’s contention is that the 36-minute match simulation he underwent this week under the eye of the England conditioning staff and two more days of intense preparation in Portugal next week will suffice but the nets are not the same as an innings out in the middle.
Eddie Jones has said Dylan Hartley could be in the reckoning for the first Test
Dylan Hartley will go into the Six Nations with no competitive rugby under his belt for eight weeks
In normal circumstances, there would be little value in Hartley packing down with a shadow Saints side for an Anglo-Welsh Cup tie against Leicester but these are far from normal circumstances.
Jones’s argument is that England’s captain – he will be re-confirmed as such at next Wednesday’s Six Nations’ launch – has benefited from the enforced time off in terms of his fitness.
England Rugby's 14-game winning streak
Fri, January 6, 2017
Express Sport recaps England Rugby's unbeaten 2016
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England won every single match they played throughout 2016, and are currently on a 14-game winning run dating back to October 2015
“In the autumn we would have given him five out of ten, he’s progressed to seven out of ten in terms of being ready to play. Given he has a good couple of days training in Portugal I anticipate him being in the reckoning for the first Test team,” he said.
That been the case it seems there is little extra to be gained from yet more hours in the gym. Hartley would gain much more from an hour at Welford Road as a tune up for Twickenham. As it is, Hartley will go into the France with rust aplenty to shake off.