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Eben Etzebeth v Maro Itoje head to head

Maro Itoje and Eben Etzebeth tangle /Getty

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The British and Irish Lions collide with South Africa in the first of three Tests at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.


At the heart of a colossal forward battle will be the duel between towering second rows Eben Etzebeth and Maro Itoje. Here, the PA news agency looks at the tale of the tape for both players.

Eben Etzebeth – South Africa
Club: Toulon
Position: Second row
Age: 29
Caps: 86
Debut: v England, 2012
Height: 6’7”
Weight: 19st 3lbs
Points: 15 (Tries 3)

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The Lions vs Springboks | Test 1 | Live at London Welsh RFC | Lions Fanzones | Promo
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The Lions vs Springboks | Test 1 | Live at London Welsh RFC | Lions Fanzones | Promo

South Africa field the most physical pack in world rugby and Etzebeth acts as their alpha male, a snarling aggressor who sets the tone through his appetite for confrontation. If tempers fray on Saturday, he will be at the heart of it. But Etzebeth is far more than an enforcer in the classic Springbok mould. Freakishly strong and athletic, he is a formidable carrier as well as excelling at the set-piece, a lock’s bread and butter. But it is at the heart of South Africa’s work in the tight where he really comes into his own. An injury-hit season is the only question mark hanging over him.

Maro Itoje – England
Club: Saracens
Position: Second row
Age: 26
Caps: 51 (including 3 Lions caps)
Debut: v Italy, 2016
Height: 6’5”
Weight: 18st 1lbs
Points: 15 (Tries 3)

Every bit as physical as Etzebeth but in a different way, Itoje is probably the first name on the Lions team-sheet. Plays with less visible fury but is relentlessly destructive, disrupting the opposition at every turn. With his reach and strength he guts enemy mauls and line-outs and is a menace at the breakdown, forcing turnovers and slowing down the ball. Horrible to play against, he sets the tone for England up-front and will perform the same role for the Lions. Responsible for a high penalty count during the Six Nations, but this shortcoming appears to have been rectified.


British and Irish Lions team to play South Africa in the first Test at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, July 24 (5pm BST KO):

S Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland); A Watson (Bath Rugby, England), E Daly (Saracens, England), R Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), D Van Der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland); D Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), A Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland); W Jones (Scarlets, Wales), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), T Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), M Itoje (Saracens, England), A W Jones (Ospreys, Wales, capt), C Lawes (Northampton Saints, England), T Curry (Sale Sharks, England), J Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets, Wales), R Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland), K Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England), T Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland), H Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland), C Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland), O Farrell (Saracens, England), L Williams (Scarlets, Wales).


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