Dylan Hartley 'not given up hope' of making England's World Cup squad, says Eddie Jones
Last Updated: 05/07/19 8:23am
England head coach Eddie Jones insists Dylan Hartley has “not given up hope” of working his way back from injury in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Former England captain Hartley has been struggling with a knee problem and has not played rugby since December.
The 33-year-old Northampton hooker is facing a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of the tournament, which begins in Japan in September.
"He has been a great character and a great captain for the team," Jones told Sky Sports News.
"It is personally disappointing for him that he cannot get himself fit but he is still endeavouring to get there. He has not given up hope and we will keep monitoring his progress."
Jones was more positive when asked the fitness of injured trio George Kruis (ankle), Mako Vunipola (hamstring) and Jack Nowell (ankle).
All three are recovering from surgery on their respective injuries but Jones is "100 per cent" confident each will be fit for England's opening game of the tournament against Tonga on September 22.
"They are all progressing well. When they will be available, we are obviously not sure, but we think they are all going to be available for the World Cup," Jones said.
Joe Marler was a surprise inclusion in the 35-man England training squad named on Thursday.
The Harlequins loosehead retired in September 2018 after playing 59 Tests for England, but decided to make a comeback after speaking to Jones last week, who described him as 'one of the best props in the world'.
"We have kept in contact. It has not been isolated conversations that led to him coming back," Jones said.
"He wants to come back and compete for a spot so we are delighted to give him an opportunity to come back and compete.
"At his best, he is one of the best props in the world and we saw that, particularly, in the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town. He was absolutely outstanding. I think he played 80 minutes which is unusual for a front-rower these days.
"He wants to come back and he wants to compete. He is not guaranteed a spot and he has got plenty of competition. He has got Ben Moon, Ellis Genge and [Val Rapava] Ruskin all competing against him."
Jones expects to bring five half-backs to Japan but has not yet decided whether his final squad will feature an extra scrum-half or an extra fly-half.
"We are not quite sure about that," Jones admitted. "We will probably take three of one of those positions. It will depend on who is available and what the lie of the land is at that stage."
With George Ford entrenched as the back-up to captain Owen Farrell at fly-half, Danny Cipriani would need to convince Jones to carry three fly-halves to secure a seat on the plane to Japan.
Jones warned the Gloucester No 10 still has work to do, and says Harlequins' Marcus Smith is also under consideration.
Asked about Cipriani's chances, Jones said: "It is a great chance for Marcus Smith as well. They are competing for a potential spot. We will just wait and see.
"Danny had a good week this week. He needs - like every other player - to keep improving."