James Lawton: Dallaglio's penance makes him perfect for captain's role

Tuesday 13 January 2004 01:00

Lawrence Dallaglio is the choice here to take over from Martin Johnson as England seek to stretch out beyond the glory of the World Cup win.

Johnson's achievements scarcely need any elaboration now - he crowned his extraordinary international career with leadership of the highest calibre in Australia. But one thing Johnson never quite satisfactorily resolved in his own mind, it has to be said, was a proper dividing line between legitimate physical force and outright thuggery. Saying this now is probably to commit some kind of sacrilege, but it really is a matter of record.

Dallaglio made his own mistakes, but he did his penance and, unlike Johnson, he has addressed seriously the problem of violence in rugby which is so relentlessly blanketed by euphemistic whimperings within the game. Dallaglio has said that modern professional rugby turns its gaze from the worst of the mayhem only at the risk of some shattering injury to a high-profile player. Such thoughtfulness is required more than ever at a time when England, as world champions, have an obligation to set the standards of play and discipline.

Having made one damaging mistake, his entrapment in a tabloid newspaper's "honey-trap", Dallaglio is a much wiser warrior - one who could surely be entrusted with the captaincy he once let slip away. It would be the best possible reward for a brilliant redemption.

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