If fit, Dylan Hartley will captain England in the year's Six Nations.
That's according to head coach Eddie Jones, who claimed Hartley's current ban will have no impact on his future with the international team. The Northampton hooker was banned for six weeks, after he was sent off as a result of a dangerous tackle on Leinster's Sean O'Brien last month.
Hartley's ban ends before the Six Nations begins, allowing the 30-year-old to return to international duty. Named captain by Jones after the World Cup, the Northampton star captained the team to an unbeaten 2016 which included a Six Nations Grand Slam and a 3-0 series win away to Australia.
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Speaking to The Telegraph, Jones revealed he has set out a fitness plan for the hooker during his ban, and those targets must be met, ahead of the pre-Six Nations training camp in Portugal.
"Dylan has got to come to Portugal fit and ready to go," Jones confirmed. "He’s doing all the right things at the moment and if he keeps on doing that, there’s no reason why he won’t be starting hooker and captain."
"He has got to be one of the fittest players. He is on a stringent fitness programme now. He ate turkey and broccoli for Christmas dinner. He has to watch his diet."
England's Six Nations defence begins against France on February 4th.