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Video: What Itoje said in beaten England Murrayfield changing room

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

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The latest episode in the weekly RFU video series on the England team has revealed that Maro Itoje was the player who rallied his disappointed teammates after they had returned to their dressing room seats following last Saturday’s loss to Scotland in the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations.

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England had somehow conspired to allow a 17-10 lead end in a 20-17 defeat following a dramatic closing 15 minutes at Murrayfield where they lost their focus and made a series of game-losing errors.

Those mistakes included a yellow card, the concession of a penalty try, a general level of disquiet over the use of their replacements, and the spurning of a long-range penalty kick at the posts in favour of a tactical kick down the line where they lost the resulting lineout.  

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Their immediate reaction following the dramatic loss was captured on video by the O2 Inside Line | The Next Level documentary series, the RFU-sanctioned production that has been providing a spy-on-the-wall type insight to Jones’ squad.    

Seated in the dressing room in the position allocated to the England No4 with Nick Isiekwe sitting to his left in the No5 spot and coach Jones to his right standing underneath a television in the corner, Itoje told his teammates how they needed to react as their championship title hopes were far from over.

“What matters is what is in this circle,” began Itoje, a player who last year was tipped as Lions captaincy material but that honour went to Alun Wyn Jones while Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry have recently skippered England in the absence of the injured Owen Farrell. “What matters is what is in this circle, fellas, so how we react, how we stick together, how we react, how we stick together. 

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“This tournament, we have been here before, we have lost the first game, we bounced straight back and had a good tournament thereafter. So obviously we are disappointed. Obviously, we are sad that we lost but this tournament, it depends how we react. And how we react is we stick together and we get tighter. We use this game to get tighter.” 

England fell to a fifth-place finish last year after they lost their opening match to Scotland, losing three of their five matches across the campaign, but they bounced back from a first-round loss to France in 2020 to lift the title on points difference from the French.  

All the leadership talk by Jones in recent weeks in the absence of Farrell and Lawes has centred on stand-in skipper Curry and the support of Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ellis Genge and Henry Slade.

Itoje, though, was given kudos by Jones in midweek as England began preparation for their round two match away to Italy next Sunday. “Maro has got a massive role in the team,” insisted the head coach. “He is in charge of the team communication which is a session of the week where the players get together and talk about how they want to be for the week. 

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“It’s an important session done with our sports psychologist and he also runs the lineout so he has got two big portfolios. In terms of his own performance (against Scotland), he has played better games but he is not far away from being at his best.” 

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