'The real motivation' that is driving on Maro Itoje and England
Maro Itoje has insisted that England are ready to show their true selves when they launch the Rugby World Cup with the toughest assignment of their group campaign against Argentina. For the first time in the fixture’s 42 years, England are underdogs on the basis of an alarming run that has produced five defeats in their last six Tests, including a first-ever loss to Fiji.
The Pumas, meanwhile, have been acclaimed by Steve Borthwick as the best team to leave Argentinian shores and last November’s 30-29 victory at Twickenham is still vivid in the memory.
England are struggling on multiple fronts – attack, defence, discipline, cohesion, confidence – and have plummeted to eighth in the global rankings, two places lower than Saturday’s opponents in Marseille.
Itoje, however, reckoned they are about to turn the corner and place one foot into the quarter-finals. “We know who we are. We know the type of players we have. We know the quality of coaches we have,” Itoje said.
“Yes we haven’t in recent times played as well as we can, but we know the potential of this group. And when you know the potential of this group and you know the attitude of the players and the coaches, it can only fill you with confidence.
“We know we haven’t played our best rugby, but I guess that may add an element of fuel. The real motivation is where this team can go. The real motivation is how we can properly display the best of ourselves and give the very best account of ourselves.
“That’s the exciting opportunity that this brings. It’s an incredible opportunity and that is the motivation to see where we can go and how good we can be. There is a strong feeling and belief within the group now that things can change very quickly and the best is yet to come.
“Moments like this don’t come very often throughout our careers. Top, top players have three chances and that’s a lot. So we want to take this with both hands.”
If they are to topple Argentina, England will need to produce a level of performance that has been beyond them so far in Borthwick’s nine Tests in charge.
Expectations are low, even allowing for their presence on the easier side of the draw, but attack coach Richard Wigglesworth insists the outside noise is being tuned out.
“I don’t know if I’m too interested in expectations outside of the squad, if I’m being honest. That’s been labelled at us a few times,” he Wigglesworth. “You have got to understand that this squad is incredibly tight and determined.
“Whether that is from the outside or within, that has always been there. The expectation that Argentina maybe go in as favourites makes no difference to us. We are incredibly determined to go out there and give the absolute best of ourselves.”
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