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'Rugby isn't a game like football.... where you can win just on talent'

(Photo by Steve Bardens/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Maro Itoje insists England must revel in their role as the Chris Eubank of rugby when they attempt to land a telling blow in the Guinness Six Nations title race at Wales’ expense.


Boxing fan Itoje has this week been watching Eubank’s ‘Life Stories’ with Piers Morgan and admires the British middleweight great for being “tough as nails” and “as eccentric as they come”.

And the Lions second row sees similarities in Eubank’s ability to thrive in adversity and pantomime villain persona to England as they attempt to floor Wales’ Grand Slam challenge in Cardiff on Saturday.

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“I think as an England team specifically one could argue that’s pretty similar to how a lot of other nations see us,” Itoje said.

“If you are in that position it’s about relishing it, it’s about enjoying the challenge, enjoying the competition, enjoying the moment, living in the moment, being present in the moment and doing what you need to do. Do your best to take care of business.

“Rugby is a game similar to boxing in the sense that you can’t fake rugby, you can’t play at rugby. You can’t just go out there and go through the motions because if you do that you will get beat.

“Rugby isn’t a game like football where you can win… I am no Alex Ferguson of football… but rugby isn’t a game where you can win just on talent.

Maro Itoje
Maro Itoje /Getty

“We have seen many talented sides lose to lesser teams, because of one reason or another.

“You need to have that mentality, you need to have that fighting spirit, you need to have that dogged approach to what you do.”

Eddie Jones has labelled round-three encounters as “make-or-break” and England’s title defence would undoubtedly be over if they fall at the Principality Stadium.


A calamitous Calcutta Cup defeat to Scotland on the opening weekend has left no margin for error and while progress was made against Italy, it is a Wales side showing signs of resurgence that will indicate whether the recent malaise is temporary or runs deeper.

“We are ready to go. As a team, we are looking forward to it and we are ready to go,” Itoje said.

“This is the game where we need a result. Our ambition going into the Six Nations was to win it. For us to do that it means we have to win against Wales.

“That’s just a reality of the situation. So full of steam ahead. We’re looking to get that result.”

When asked about the incentive of denying Wales the Grand Slam, Itoje replied: “I guess, but that’s secondary. The first prize is about us and where we want to go as a team. Where we believe we can grow. Anything else is secondary.”

Wales have dispatched Ireland and Scotland so far, but on both occasions they faced 14 men.

Aware that Saturday’s referee Pascal Gauzere has sent off more players than any other official in Test rugby – he has shown seven red cards – and of the recent spate of dismissals in the game, England fully intend finishing with a full team.

“It goes without saying that we don’t want to be playing the game with 14, 13 men,” Itoje said.

“If you do that you just put one arm behind your back whilst you are going out there and that’s a position we don’t want to be in. As a team we need to do our best to remain the right side of the referee.”



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