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'We weren't playing against mugs out there... They were never going to roll over'

England's Jonny Hill (L) and England's lock Maro Itoje (2L) (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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Maro Itoje believes England must develop their ruthless streak after an 18-7 triumph failed to reflect their dominance over Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday.


For a second successive Autumn Nations Cup match, statistics painted a startling picture of how victory was engineered with England’s defence this time replacing the set-piece and maul as the key information.

Eddie Jones’ side made 238 tackles compared to Ireland’s 72 as they used defensive fury to bludgeon outgunned opponents and make a virtue of playing without the ball.

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Maro Itoje talks to the media following his side’s defeat of Ireland:
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Maro Itoje talks to the media following his side’s defeat of Ireland:

With Jonny May poaching two tries, the second a stunning solo score initiated from inside his own 22, and Owen Farrell’s boot finding the target, they moved 18-0 ahead with just under half an hour remaining.

But having never remotely looked like losing, they were unable to keep their foot on Irish throats in what is viewed by Itoje as a missed opportunity.

“That’s the next step really for us,” said Itoje, the man-of-the-match who led the tackle count with 24 hits.

“It’s important to remember that Ireland are a serious team. We weren’t playing against mugs out there.


“They are a well-coached team with some very good players, so they are always going to make it difficult.

“They were never going to roll over, but we do want to be more relentless. We want to be more clinical and take more control of the game. For us, that is our next step.

“It was a good performance but there were still things we can tidy up and get better at.

“A lot of the work we did during the game was very good. We did win the set-piece battle and we did win the physical battle.”


Victory has placed England on track for a place in the showpiece event on finals weekend next month with Wales their last remaining opponents in Group A.

Trips across the border to the Principality Stadium have traditionally been fraught affairs full of hostility, but Saturday’s renewal of their age old rivalry takes place behind closed doors at Llanelli’s Parc y Scarlets.

The change of venue and circumstances enforced by the coronavirus pandemic should in theory suck the venom out of the occasion, but Itoje insists the location is irrelevant if Wales are playing at home.

“I don’t think playing anywhere in Wales is easy. The game is at the Scarlets and I’ve played at that stadium before. It’s a beautiful stadium,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re playing, you’re still playing Wales and whether it’s at the Principality, the Scarlets stadium, or a little park, they are going to bring that same intensity.

“We know what they are all about. Wales are one of the proudest nations around so we know what they are going to bring. We need to make sure we are ready.

“I know some of their players really well, I know how they go about their business and I know what makes them tick.

“I know this game will be huge for them and they’ll want to attack it from the off. It’s going to be a huge game. We want to move in the right direction.”


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