Maro Itoje was crowned the official man-of-the-match in England’s win over Ireland in the Pool A clash of the Autumn Nations Cup, after an outstanding display by the second rower at Twickenham.
The 26-year-old made a nuisance of himself at line out and at the breakdown, disrupting Ireland’s attack while punishing them behind the gain line with dominant hits, delivering the type of performance he is renown for.
England’s lock made 25 tackles, missing none, whilst also winning two of England’s seven turnovers. England’s pack powered over Ireland after they built an 18-0 lead on the back of two tries to Jonny May before a late try to Jacob Stockdale added some respectability to the scoreboard for Ireland.
Itoje’s ‘take no prisoners’ attitude was praised by fans, who described him as ‘absolutely relentless in defence’ and ‘the greatest second row in the modern game’. Irish fans said that he ‘ate us alive’ as they could only watch their side fall to England for the fourth time in a row.
Top player Maro Itoje, takes no prisoners: this guy was built for this role. Special mention to Jonny May mention, full of running…#ENGvIRE
— Joshua Nagenda (@joshuanagenda) November 21, 2020
Itoje truly deserved Player of the Match. He never gives up the fight. Absolutely relentless in defence. What a leader! #ENGvIRE
— Maggie Alphonsi MBE (@MaggieAlphonsi) November 21, 2020
Maro Itoje, world class. Consistently world class.
Not sure why he doesn’t get the respect from some rugby fans, maybe because he plays for Saracens and brings so much energy, but he is phenomenal.
— Mana Rugby (@mana_rugby) November 21, 2020
A very frustrating game with a lot of familiar failings. No incisiveness in attack, not helped by Byrne looking like a deer in the headlights for a lot of that. Completely outmuscled up front. Soft penalties. Lineout again absolutely falling apart. Itoje ate us alive. #ENGvIRE
— Hugo Gordon (@HugoGordon1) November 21, 2020
Maro Itoje greatest 2nd row of the modern game. #ENGvIRE
— Felix Ungar (@Husker_Ju) November 21, 2020
Jonny May: 18
Maro Itoje defence: 7#ENGvIRE
— Alex Skitt (@alexBskitt) November 21, 2020
Irish lineout a major issue. Itoje and Launchbury spoiling and refusing to give them a foundation to build on in the 22 #ENGvIRE
— Nick (@Winn1) November 21, 2020
Many fans were intrigued by the battle up front between Maro Itoje and Ireland’s new captain James Ryan, who are both tipped to be the first choice Lions second row in 2021 in South Africa.
Ryan had delivered an impressive performance in a losing side the last time the two sides met earlier in the year at Twickenham, elevating his stock as one of Europe’s premier locks. Itoje, widely regarded as Europe’s best, relished the challenge against the man challenging him for his title.
English fans weren’t happy with the assertion that Ryan had reached the same level as Itoje, claiming Irish fans had ‘some audacity’ for doing so and that this match could finally put to bed the debate between the two.
The audacity of the Irish calling James Ryan as good as Itoje. Itoje teaching him how a lock plays today
— Matt (@MattRawlinson96) November 21, 2020
Can people stop talking about Ryan in the same breath as Itoje now? They’re not even close!#ENGvIRE
— Ed Tucker (@Teddybreath) November 21, 2020
Is there a game that Maro Itoje hasn't dominated James Ryan? Nothing against Ryan, just shows how good Itoje is? #ENGvIRE
— AdamStr (@ajstr17) November 21, 2020
James Ryan must have nightmares about Maro Itoje. #ENGvIRE
— Stuart Turner (@OnlyOneT) November 21, 2020
Itoje again, absolutely grounding Ryan, such a strong player in contact #ENGvIRE
— James David Stokes (@JamesStokesLX) November 21, 2020
One fan was in disbelief about the assertion of Ryan as the next captain of the British & Irish Lions, with the Irish lock ‘not a guaranteed starter’ unlike Itoje who is seen as being in a different league to the Leinster-product.
A couple of weeks ago on a twitter discussion about who will captain the next Lions team. I couldn’t believe some ppl suggesting James Ryan. A v good player he surely is but like most current 2nd rows not in the same league as Itoje& unlike itoje is not a guaranteed lions starter pic.twitter.com/CWogZhNLsO
— Joe Healy (@joehealyfarmer) November 21, 2020
Naturally, the debate skewed towards the Lions tour where many fans were ready to claim Itoje as the next Lions captain. One fan claimed it would be like Martin Johnson in ’97, who famously lifted the Lions to a successful tour of South Africa, while another claimed he should ‘definitely’ be the captain in South Africa with ‘no one even close’.
As things stand, Mako, George, Itoje and the back row are looking like 6 of the starting Lions pack in South Africa. Could all change in a few months time though #ENGvIRE
— David Summers (@davidsummers64) November 21, 2020
Itoje for Lions captain? Like Johnson in 97….#ENGvIRE
— Lee Bridgeman (@Lee_A_Bridgeman) November 21, 2020
— Rob Southwell (@HEELSouthwell) November 21, 2020
Itoje has gotta be Lions captain surely #ENGvIRE
— carys ? (@cazjmarshall) November 21, 2020
Itoje is a lock for British and Irish Lions captain, no one even close #ENGvIRE
— Nathan Hollis (@SecondRowSaint) November 21, 2020
Maro Itoje building step by step his Lion's captancy… what an impact he had today!
— DanPatRugby (@DanPatRugby) November 21, 2020
After recieving his man-of-the-match award, Itoje said the game was a building block for his side who are moving in the right direction.
“It was a good game,” he said, “We started the first half really well and Ireland had their purple patch at the beginning of the second half and we kind of wrestled thereafter.
“I think it’s another step forward. Game on game we’re building and going in the right direction. You can’t take wins for granted so I’m really happy with that.
“I think our relentless application gets our forward pack going – we pride ourselves in that area and today was just another opportunity to show it.”
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) November 21, 2020
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