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'Take the game by the scruff of the neck': Itoje warns Japan of 'confrontational' England response

By PA
Maro Itoje fends off the Pumas' defence. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Maro Itoje has warned Japan to expect a furious backlash from a team determined to show the real England by rescuing their autumn on Saturday.

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Argentina opened the campaign with only their second ever victory at Twickenham, a deserved 30-29 win exposing the hosts’ familiar shortcomings in attack and discipline.

Even allowing for their elevation to rugby’s top table, Japan should provide the weakest opposition of the month with Tests against New Zealand and South Africa completing the schedule.

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With their backs to the walls, England are in familiar territory and Itoje insists it is time to show what they are made of using national pride as fuel.

“We need to break free and just go out there and be the players that we know we are,” said the Saracens forward, who will continue in the back row following his switch from lock.

“The England response I’m expecting to see is a team full of energy, a team that’s physical, tough and ready to take the game, not waiting to see what happens.

“We don’t want to take a backward step, we want to go out there and take the game by the scruff of the neck.

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“You never want to lose a game to have this type of response, but when you are in this position you have to go out there and show yourselves – more importantly, let alone anyone else – what the team is really about.

“Show each other what playing for England means to us and show each other how important this is in our lives. We definitely need to go out there and have that aggressive mindset to do the job.

“England are at our best when we are confrontational, aggressive, we play flat and fast and take the game to the opposition.

“Our forwards like to get their hands on the ball, our backs put us in the right areas and that is what we want to see on Saturday.”

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England and Japan have played only two previous Tests with their most recent meeting taking place at Twickenham four years ago.

On that day Eddie Jones’ team were given a scare as they trailed 15-10 at half-time before rallying, but it was a performance that ended the Test careers of Alex Lozowski and Zach Mercer and meant four years in the international wilderness for Danny Care.

“Japan played really well in that game. We were a little cold and didn’t adapt to how they were playing as quickly as we’d have liked,” Itoje said.

“That game highlights to me that this is not a team to be taken lightly.

“If you look at their results in the last four or five years, they have taken some big scalps and they are a good team. If you take them lightly, they will punish you.

“They are more expansive compared to other teams in the top 10 and they play a very different style of rugby.

“But we want to play our style of rugby. We’re not just going to go out there and throw the ball from side to side. We are going to play an England style of rugby.”

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