Maro Itoje has revealed the hurt of England losing last November’s World Cup final, the lock disclosing that it took the lockdown suspension of rugby for him to finally sit down and review the defeat to South Africa. Appearing on Kickin It, the Dan Carter Instagram interview series, Itoje said: “The final was extremely disappointing and it took me a long while to be able to watch the final. It was too painful.
“The first time I watched it back was during the lockdown and I wanted to take lessons from it. There are always lessons in victory and defeat and allowing my emotions to watch the game will make me a better player. It was still painful to watch, but I’m more optimistic about the future than the past and we have a lot of good years left in us.”
Carter suffered World Cup heartache in 2003 and 2007 before New Zealand won back to back titles in 2011 and 2015. However, he said that he failed to learn enough following the All Blacks loss to Australia in Sydney 17 years ago. “In a funny way, I’m glad that Maro is hurting a little bit because my first World Cup in 2003 I got over in four or five days. Then I had a lot of success after that and got to 2007 and wasn’t hurting as much as I should have from 2003.
“We got dealt with by the French in the quarter-finals and that one really hurt for a good six months. Through that hurt, you do digest what went wrong as a team and admitted we weren’t a good team when it came to pressure. I’m not saying England were the same as us but there has to be something in there that they will learn from and become stronger.
“We learnt from 2007 and that was the platform for us to be successful in 2011 and 2015. England now have a lot of guys who have experience and know what it took to get all the way to the final but not quite get there and that will hurt. It will feed their hunger come four years’ time.”
Itoje, who has yet to confirm if he is going to play for Saracens in the Championship next season following their relegation for breaking salary cap regulations, believes the Covid-19 lockdown could be a blessing in disguise for him and England as it has allowed him to deal with niggling injuries he had been carrying.
“The lockdown has shown that rugby can be quite fragile, not only on an individual level but also on a global level. You do need to have other strings to your bow,” he said.
Carter gave Itoje some career advice. “There is only so much training you can do in lockdown and that is a little blessing in disguise and it forces you to think about interests outside rugby and what is my life going to look like for me when rugby has finished.
“It has been a great experience for players to go through this process which they might not have thought too much about leading into this.”
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