During a press conference at the Six Nations launch earlier today with Eddie Jones and Dylan Hartley, Jones announced that the Saints hooker was to captain his country again during the upcoming campaign.
Hartley, though happy to be leading England again, was clear that there is a responsibility that comes with the role and the main focus is still to achieve and improve as a team.
“We’re not Grand Slam Champions,” Hartley told Russ Hargreaves of the English Rugby Podcast.
“We have a clean sheet but we start again with every tournament. Every tournament is a new one.
“We want to win the tournament and by being able to do that we need to be at our finest next week and that’s fully what we’re focussed on.”
Looking ahead to England’s first opposition, France, Hartley said that while some may label the Frenchmen as underdogs with a run of poor form in recently Six Nations tournaments, the England side are not underestimating what they can do.
“What I can expect from France, and what the team can expect, is a team that can play a very controlled game with a big set piece, good mauling, good lineout, huge front row and they’ve got this big back line.
“I know Fofana’s out injured but they’ve got Basteraud who’s come in and Ficou, they’ve got big, direct guys but then with one offload they can come to life and change the pace of their game and up their tempo.
“They could play a set piece, slower game, they could play a fast, offloading game, we don’t know. So all we’re doing at the moment is preparing. We’re preparing ourselves, working hard in Portugal and we’re looking forward to what will be a big test for us next week.”
Hartley said that retaining the captaincy was never something he was focussed on, he wanted to prove to Jones that he deserved a place in the side first, with the first mention of the captaincy between himself and the England head coach coming as Jones announced him as skipper in the press conference.
“The captaincy was never mine in the first place, so coming into this camp I had clear directives from Eddie of what I had to achieve to be involved with the Portugal camp.
“And he’s not joking, he’s just announced the captaincy to me in the press today, he hasn’t before then said to me once that we could do it.
“I mean he did ask me to come to the launch with him, so I was either captain or just here to carry his bags but he didn’t officially tell me before then, no.”