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Maro Itoje fit and will start for England

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Maro Itoje will start for England in this Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations round four game at Twickenham, putting an end to fears that an eve-of-match illness would rule him out. The lock was named as the England No4 when Eddie Jones unveiled his lineup at 12:30pm on Thursday, but he took ill overnight and missed Friday’s captain’s run training session at Twickenham. 

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Assistant coach Matt Proudfoot insisted after that missed training that England were “really optimistic” that Itoje would come right and would still take his place in the team. So it proved as Itoje arrived at Twickenham on Saturday with his teammates and after the RFU circulated the official teamsheet 70 minutes prior to the 4:45pm kick-off, the forward then emerged from the tunnel at 4:01 – initially to do a series of sidelines stretches – to take part in the pre-match warm-up.  

“He was a little bit sick overnight so we are giving him an opportunity to recover, just cautious today with him but we are really optimistic he will be fine tomorrow,” insisted scrum coach Proudfoot at his post-training media briefing on Friday when asked if Itoje would play for England this weekend.   

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Back in the Game – RFU
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Back in the Game – RFU

The assistant outlined at the time the contingency plan that England had ready if Itoje didn’t recover in time to take his place at lock alongside Charlie Ewels. “Charlie and Joe Launchbury ran in the second row,” he said about how the team adapted training on Friday without Itoje. 

“We have (Ollie) Chessum in the squad as 25, so he ran there as well, and we have Nick Isiekwe on standby, so we are well covered. Those players have been in the group right the way through the competition so we are well covered there. 

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“Maro is a world-class player and his X-factor is the amount of pressure he can apply. But when you have got a guy who got 80 caps who can fill that void, that is probably Joe Launchbury’s speciality, his physicality. That is the opportunity that lies there for us.”

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Ireland scrum coach John Fogarty had given his view on Friday about the Itoje situation. “He is a difficult character to deal with because he is so involved, he tries to have lots of involvements in the game. He is a huge strength of theirs. He is a nuisance at times but he is excellent.

“He would be a loss, of course. They have got some strength in depth and they have got some size. Launchbury is an excellent player. He has got lots of experience and adds something different as well. But sure, he [Itoje] would be a loss.”

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