Six Nations 2017: Dylan Hartley says he will be better captain after Italy lesson

By Chris JonesBBC Radio 5 live rugby reporter
England should 've reacted sooner against Italy - Dylan Hartley

England captain Dylan Hartley says he should have reacted sooner to Italy's tactics in his side's Six Nations win at Twickenham on Sunday.

The Azzurri controversially chose not to engage in rucks, creating widespread confusion in the England ranks.

Hartley has taken responsibility for his side's failure to adapt quickly before recovering to win 36-15.

"As a player, as a captain, as a man, you are never the finished article. I am still learning," he said.

It wasn't until the second half that England started to combat Italy's tactics, scoring five of their six tries having trailed 10-5 at half-time.

"I've got to take some of that responsibility on myself, probably react sooner and see the picture that was happening in front of me," Hartley told BBC Sport.

"Pull the team in, deal with the scenario earlier, and see what was happening earlier in the game."

The BBC understands the England management remain privately angry with Italy's approach, but Hartley says the game was still a valuable exercise.

"It's never a waste, because you take learnings from it," he added. "But there is a feeling that it is done now. The team has learnt. All our focus now is towards Scotland."

England, who lead the Six Nations with three wins from three games, host third-placed Scotland at Twickenham on 11 March.

Vern Cotter's side have already beaten Ireland and Wales so far in the championship, but the Scots haven't won at Twickenham since 1983.

"I might use that [stat]," Hartley said. "I don't know, if it is extra motivation [for them]. We are going to have to be aware of that.

"They seem to be playing some good rugby at the moment, so it's a challenge we will look forward to and embrace.

"[Our motivation] is to win and get better. Everyone seems to save a big game for England."

'Forwards are fresh and ready to go'

England are training in Oxford this week before the Calcutta Cup clash.

And assistant coach Steve Borthwick says his forwards are fresher than usual because of the bizarre nature of the game with Italy.

"The forwards haven't had anyway near the number of contacts they normally do," Borthwick said.

"They are fresh and ready to go. So this week is a great opportunity to get a lot of really quality training in, in preparation to play against Scotland."

Borthwick has rejected suggestions England's players do not think on their feet as well as they might, but refused to be drawn on whether he feels there should be changes to the laws at the ruck and tackle because of the Italian tactics.

"I think that's for somebody else to deal with," he said. "Right now I'm concentrating on preparing the team to play against Scotland."


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