Dylan Hartley refuses to ‘disrespect’ Italy by setting England a points target as he taps into Alastair Cook’s expertise

Dylan Hartley will not “disrespect” Italy ahead of this weekend’s Six Nations clash, with the England captain refusing to set his side a points target despite Ireland laying down the gauntlet a fortnight ago with the first bonus-point victory of the championship.

The truth is that if England fail to record a bonus point victory over an out-of-sorts Italy side currently rooted to the bottom of the Six Nations table, it will be regarded a failure. England will have high hopes of a 17th consecutive victory on Sunday and plan on taking another step towards a second consecutive Grand Slam success, something that would negate any impact of bonus points.

That’s why Hartley wants to see his side walk before they run, and the Northampton Saints hooker insisted that setting points targets is not something he is willing to do while he is in charge of the side.

“It’s disrespectful to put a number on that,” Hartley said. “If we just try and control great basic, unselfish attack, backed up with suffocating pressure in defence, I’m confident that we’ll get a result.

“First and foremost it’s a win. The targets we set are not numbers, it’s how much control we have in the game. How many errors we can force with our defence. How controlled can we be because we’re being unselfish and the basics are being done that well.”

Talking of unselfish, one of Hartley’s friends attended training on Friday in the form of Alastair Cook, the man who stood…

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