London - England rugby coach Eddie Jones said on Monday he is confident Dylan Hartley will be ready to captain the side when the Six Nations kicks off early next month.
Northampton hooker Hartley, who has not played since December 9 when he was sent off for striking and handed a six-week ban, will be put through a series of tests on Wednesday to prove his match fitness ahead of the February 4 opener against France.
"Dylan has been training the house down, and we expect him to be ready to go," Jones told the BBC.
"He's got a few hurdles he still has to jump, and if he jumps those and jumps them well, he'll be captain of the side."
Hartley is available from January 23 following the completion of his ban but is unlikely to play in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
"I have never seen him in better physical condition. He is training very hard. He is going to have a game-like training session tomorrow (Wednesday) I believe and we will see how fit he is," Jones told Sky Sports.
"We are anticipating that he is going to be right and ready to go for the Six Nations."
Harlequins prop Joe Marler may also return more quickly than expected from a broken leg, Australian Jones added.
Marler was expected to be out for up to six weeks, but Jones would not rule him out of the Twickenham clash with France.
"His recuperation might be quicker than we think," added Jones. "There is always a chance. There is certainly hope there."
Jones is due to name his squad on Friday.