Jason Leonard believes the England squad possesses enough leadership qualities to cope with captain Lewis Moody’s absence, which the legendary prop says highlights how far Martin Johnson’s side have come.
Moody was skipper for this season’s autumn Tests but is set to miss the first three RBS Six Nations games because of knee ligament trouble.
The flanker’s anticipated six-week absence will sideline him from the appointments with Wales, Italy and France, but England legend Leonard believes the side possesses the leadership qualities to succeed in his absence.
“I think when Lewis took over the England captaincy I would have said we would miss his leadership because – with shades of Martin Johnson – he leads from the front and leads by example,” he told me today.
“While he is not necessarily a great motivator, he inspires players by the way he plays. I very much believe that when he took over the captaincy from Steve Borthwick there was a lack of somebody that could really do that job.
“Since then, though, you’ve seen other players come through that perhaps could be captain.
“One would be Nick Easter, who I think is rightly considered one of the more experienced players in the squad and is rightly respected.
“Mike Tindall is another who is still there in the squad and playing well for Gloucester.
“I would suggest those two straight away, although you could actually say some of the younger players could do the role.
“Toby Flood seems to be maturing as well so you could look outside of that as well. I think there will be a couple of people vying for captaincy.”
Easter is expected to captain England in their RBS 6 Nations opener at the Millennium Stadium and World Cup winner Leonard has thrown his support behind the 32-year-old.
“You pretty much know what you get with Nick,” he added, speaking in his role as RBS RugbyForce Supporter.
“He has been there for a number of internationals, he seems to be improving.
“We seem to be a bit ageist in our sports and everybody seems to say ‘he has been around a long time’.
“But he is getting better and better each game, which is slightly worrying, and he is well respected. If he stays fit and is playing well form-wise it could be Nick Easter.
“Whoever it is, knowing what Martin Johnson is like he won’t be worried about his captain.
“Johnson will be stressing to his players ‘don’t worry about the captaincy, just make sure you are playing well enough to get selected’.
“It is no good worrying about the captaincy if you don’t even make the side. I know what Jonno is like.”