England are bullish over their chances knowing that coach Eddie Jones masterminded five wins over New Zealand when Australia coach, while 10 of the starting XV have tasted victory against the world champions.
For six of them, that triumph was savoured on the Lions tour two years ago in the shape of a 24-21 win in Wellington – a match in which Itoje produced one of his most stellar performances.
“The whole touring experience of 2017 is a reference,” the Saracens second row said.
“I learned a lot about New Zealand, their culture, how they play the game, how good and clinical they are and how to get them. This weekend feels like the time we’re going to get them.
“Quite honestly, even if I hadn’t experienced beating them, I’d still have that same confidence.
“My confidence doesn’t derive from the 2017 Lions tour. Different team and different circumstances. Their team has changed a lot too.
— ByTheMinute Rugby Union (@ByTheMinRugbyU) October 26, 2019
“My confidence derives from the personnel we have, the confidence we have, the other players we have and what we are capable of.”
If England are to progress to the final they must overcome the sport’s greatest challenge, prompting Itoje to recall a line from 16-time WWE world champion Ric Flair.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 26, 2019
“As Ric Flair said – ‘to be the man you’ve got to beat the man’,” Itoje said.
“They are two-time World Cup winners and have done it in a row, and they have obviously been the dominant team over the last eight years.
“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. That is our challenge, that is what is in front of us.”
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