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Maro Itoje: 'Do I think I have got the best prep in the world?'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Maro Itoje has insisted his preparation to play could still be better even though his recent progress was this week hailed by England boss Eddie Jones. The 27-year-old Londoner is set to win his 56th Test cap for his country when Jones’ side take on France in this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations final round denouement. 

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The second row has had his critics on occasion, but he has shown his immense value to England in recent weeks with his treasured nuisance in upsetting and getting at rival Welsh and Irish players. Now it is the turn of the French to be annoyed by a talent whose world-class ability continues to grow and improve.  

It was Thursday evening, shortly after including Itoje in an England XV showing five changes from the round four loss to Ireland, that Jones dwelt on the recent contribution of the forward. “You look at the growth of him as a player – I can’t speak more highly of what he has done, not only as a player but also his leadership qualities within the team. 

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Le Crunch Time | The French Rugby Podcast

It’s crunch time for Fabien Galthie’s men as they prepare to face England with a title and Grand Slam on the line in Paris and we analyse all the tactical, personnel and mental battles. Former England international and Toulon and Lyon full back Delon Armitage joins us to give us his insight, as well as to share a few stories on the likes of Bernard Laporte and Mourad Boudjellal from his Champions Cup winning days, and we pick our MEATER Moment of the Week…
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Le Crunch Time | The French Rugby Podcast

It’s crunch time for Fabien Galthie’s men as they prepare to face England with a title and Grand Slam on the line in Paris and we analyse all the tactical, personnel and mental battles. Former England international and Toulon and Lyon full back Delon Armitage joins us to give us his insight, as well as to share a few stories on the likes of Bernard Laporte and Mourad Boudjellal from his Champions Cup winning days, and we pick our MEATER Moment of the Week…
Use the code FRENCHPOD10 at checkout for 10% off any full price item at Meater.com

“He has become a really significant guy in our team, not that he wasn’t before, but the way he talks, the way he commands respect from the other players he continues to grow and continues to impress.”

Less than 24 hours later, Itoje was on media duties post the England captain’s run at Stade de France and he was asked about his levels of preparation and how close they are to perfection now that he is such a seasoned Test match operator.  

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“It is a massive part of being a professional rugby player, it’s a massive part of continuing to try and evolve and grow and get better in different ways to push the standard a little bit. In terms of perfecting it, you are always looking at ways, minor things that you can do differently. 

“You hear little bits of what different people do. You try a bit, a bit of trial and error. So do I think I have got the best in the world? Not yet, but I still think my prep can be better and I hope to continue to learn along the way for it to be better.”

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Tim 15 hours ago
'It’s a mental thing': Joe Schmidt on the Wallabies' flyhalf issues

Ben Donaldson had not played Super Rugby for the past eight weeks. Surely, he was playing Shute Shield for Randwick in that time to keep up the fitness…?? Eight weeks is a long break to be thrust in against a hungry skillful side like Georgia who deserve to be in the “7 Nations”. (Italy, Wales & Scotland v Georgia, can’t wait to see those ones). In the second test against Wales, Donaldson was put on for nine minutes. That was a mistake from the coaching team, who already knew he was starting the following week against Georgia. They should have put him on for 20-25 minutes, with Nick Whyte at halfback, and their combination from the Force would have flowed. Donaldsons first 20 minutes against Georgia was a shocker. However, well done to Joe Schmidt for keeping him out there because Donaldsons game improved as the rust came off, he was hammered a few times and handled it and he came into his groove. He made mistakes which they will all learn from. Ben Donaldson is a naturally talented rugby player who the Wallabies have to stick with at no.10. “Over the black Dot-aldson” is a good nick name for him with his awesome goal kicking style. It looks as though, off the boot, it’s going to hit the post. Then it just curves in beautifully every time, once he is in the groove. Donaldsons play this season for the Force, with Kurtley and co., was amazing to watch. Kurtley making one of the best comebacks in history. Donaldson has to be played consistently with Flash Gordon, Big LEN, McReight, Tupou, Kellaway. Oh, that’s right, there is Bell, Kerevi, Petaia (This list does go on a bit). Donaldson will be slotting these weapons into gaps, and into the clear, before we know it… One more thing which I will just assume is happening, just include JOC in the Wallabies squad. He is a rugby genius. His skills, wisdom and experience would be infectious around the Wallabies relatively inexperienced backline. JOC has mastered the art of all the positions long ago. JOC is so skilled and match fit atm taking THE REDS, at no.10, within a point of beating Wales. He can come off the bench and slot into the backline for the Wallabies at 10, 12, 13 or 15 at any stage of a test match. Ummm yeah, not bad… I am assuming that BIG JOE, Laurie “Gandalf” Fischer, Mike “The scrum Doctor” Cron and the team obviously already know all this. I am just a passionate rugby union supporter, and I am very happy that these guys are in charge of the coaching duties, what a coaching team the Wallabies have been blessed with. (Good luck with selecting the match day 23 when Will Skelton, who was playing amazing rugby for La Rochelle, and the boys return from Europe/Japan, Samu Kerevi…???) Now just imagine having Bernie Larkham, Toutai Kefu, Nathan Grey and John “Nobody” Eales as your coaching apprentices… GO AUSTRALIAN RUGBY… Doing a great job Phil Waugh, Joe Roff, Dan Herbert and the team. An amazing three years ahead. GO THE WALLABIES… GO THE WALLAROOS… GO THE 7’s in Paris…

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