Maro Itoje highlights England’s ‘incredible potential’ and looks at South Africa’s style | Rugby Union News

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England host South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday in the last of their Autumn Nations Series fixtures; Eddie Jones’ men arrive off the back of a comeback 25-25 draw against New Zealand having been 25-6 down

Last Updated: 20/11/22 7:33pm

Maro Itoje is excited by the prospect of taking on South Africa on Saturday

Maro Itoje is excited by the prospect of taking on South Africa on Saturday

Maro Itoje believes England have an “incredible amount of potential” in their team and cannot wait to face South Africa on Saturday at Twickenham Stadium.

Eddie Jones’ side go into the Test week having recovered from 25-6 down to draw 25-25 with the All Blacks as a result of three dramatic late tries.

England will now complete their quartet of Autumn Nations Series fixtures by hosting South Africa on Saturday. Forward Itoje is demanding that they are relentless in their pursuit of the world champions.

“Playing South Africa at Twickenham – I’m really looking forward to it. I only wish the game is a little bit sooner because we left a lot out there against New Zealand,” Itoje said.

“While the second half was a bit more how we want to play, this week is an opportunity to hopefully play how we want to for the full 80 minutes.

“We have an incredible amount of potential in this team, we just need to unlock it,” Itoje added. “We are spending more and more time together and are becoming more cohesive, so hopefully it will come.

“I’m proud that we stuck at it (against New Zealand) and we didn’t go away and proud that we played some great rugby towards the end of that game, but we need to play like that for the whole game.

England’s Autumn Internationals

Sunday, November 6 England 29-30 Argentina 2.15pm
Saturday, November 12 England 52-13 Japan 3.15pm
Saturday, November 19 England 25-25 New Zealand 5.30pm
Saturday, November 26 England vs South Africa 5.30pm

“You never want to be too happy with a draw, but it’s better than losing. Hopefully, it will put us in better stead for South Africa, who will be a great challenge,” Itoje continued.

“South Africa haven’t changed the way they play since their first game in international rugby! Strong set-piece, strong kicking game, strong defence.”

Itoje knows what to expect from the Springboks on Saturday afternoon

Itoje knows what to expect from the Springboks on Saturday afternoon

England’s head coach Jones has highlighted the importance of having options in the set-piece this weekend, in anticipation of the Springboks’ aerial assault. Jones has pointed towards Itoje replacing Sam Simmonds at blindside flanker and Dave Ribbans starting at lock.

“We probably need three jumpers against South Africa. It’s going to be a higher kicking game so we’ll have a look at that,” Jones said.

“We were a bit disappointed early on against New Zealand about the effectiveness of our ruck defence. Ardie Savea we handled pretty well.

“Tom Curry and Sam Simmonds defensively were good and that’s the best Test match I’ve seen Billy Vunipola play since 2019.”

Jones: It’s always up to the players

England head coach Eddie Jones praised his side's fighting spirit after clawing back a draw against New Zealand

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England head coach Eddie Jones praised his side’s fighting spirit after clawing back a draw against New Zealand

England head coach Eddie Jones praised his side’s fighting spirit after clawing back a draw against New Zealand

At the end of the contest against New Zealand, England were criticised by some for kicking the ball out with the clock in the red, Jones said he backs his players’ decision.

“It’s always up to the players. I trust their decision-making,” he added. “I’m not on the field, I don’t have access to them. So I just trust their decisions.

“I thought second half we played really well. We’re disappointed we didn’t win the game, but a draw is a draw, and with the dominance they had in the first half, we could have fallen away.

“You’ve seen better teams than us fall away against the All Blacks and lose by 40 or 50 points. Absolutely pulverised.

“If you don’t stay in the fight, you can get blown away. We stayed in the fight, and I think the leadership team was outstanding. Owen (Farrell) on his 100th cap did a great job, with (Ellis) Genge and (Jack) Nowell.

Of the late decision, skipper Owen Farrell added: “We just wanted to see where we were off the ruck. If we got go-forward, got on the front-foot and had an opportunity, then we wanted to take it, and if not we wanted to make a good decision, and I think that’s what was done.”

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