Hartley confident as England travel to Italy


England travel to Rome confident they can build on their morale-boosting start to the Six Nations with victory over Italy, says captain Dylan Hartley.

Eddie Jones' side picked up a 15-9 win over Scotland at Murrayfield in the Australian's first game in charge last week, earning their seventh consecutive Calcutta Cup.

A trip to the Italian capital is the perfect chance for Jones to make it two wins from two as England have won all 16 of their previous Six Nations matches against Italy - the only 100 per cent win record any team holds over another in the tournament.

And that statistic gives skipper Hartley belief ahead of Sunday's match.

"In training I've been drilling it into the guys, why shouldn't we be confident?" Hartley told the Rugby Football Union website.

"We are the best players in England. We should always be confident no matter who we play. 

"They [Italy] are a side who should be respected but I don't want to get too caught up in talking about them because we have to be confident, we are a good side with good players and are coached unbelievably well. We are well prepared."

Jones has made three changes from England's win over Scotland with Courtney Lawes, Mako Vunipola and Ben Youngs all handed starts.

The trio replace Joe Launchbury, Joe Marler and Danny Care, while uncapped duo Maro Itoje and Paul Hill are named among the replacements.

Italy's Six Nations may have started with a 23-21 defeat to France, but Jacques Brunel's team were agonisingly close to causing a shock as Sergio Parisse missed a last-gasp drop-goal attempt.

Brunel - who welcomes back George Biasi but is without David Odiete - was proud of his side's performance in Paris, and hopes for a similar display against England.

Speaking to the Italian Rugby Federation website, Brunel said: "We have never beaten England and on Sunday we do not start as favourites.

"But our challenge, our ambition must be to remain in contention for seventy minutes. If we do, anything can happen.

"They are a very, very difficult opponent but if we remain close maybe things will be different than in the past."


Key Opta Stats:

- Italy are just one try away from scoring their 100th in the Six Nations. Only on three occasions in the competition have they failed to score at least one against England.
- England have opened their Six Nations campaign with back-to-back wins in five of the last six editions.
- Italy gained the most metres of any team last weekend (426) while England gained the fewest (274).