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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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’.

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.”

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