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Why Itoje feels England 'are going to be celebrating Saturday night’

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Maro Itoje has urged England to seize the chance to clinch a place in the Rugby World Cup final, claiming that South Africa are not infallible.

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The rivals collide at the Stade de France on Saturday with the Springboks red-hot favourites to take another step towards retaining the crown they won against the English in Yokohama four years ago.

Steve Borthwick’s men are the only unbeaten side left in the tournament, however, and Itoje is convinced they have yet to play their best rugby since arriving in France seven weeks ago. “South Africa are a good team. They are the current world champions, they have had a very good World Cup,” he said.

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“We have played them twice since 2019; they have won one, we have won one. We are not talking about a team that has never lost, we are not talking about a team that is without fault – they are a good team, but so are we.

“I believe there is still a huge amount of growth to come from this team and I feel we haven’t seen the best of us yet.

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“For us, it’s about imposing our game. We don’t want to sit back and just watch them do their thing, we want to be England rugby.

“I believe that if we put our best out on the field, we are going to be celebrating on Saturday night and have a positive night.

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“When you get to these games, a lot of people say, ‘It’s just another game’. This isn’t just another game. This is a special game. People are aware of what’s at stake.

“These are special games and you don’t get many opportunities like this. It’s about us seizing the moment, being really present and taking any opportunities we get.”

Itoje is one of eight survivors from the starting XV that was routed 32-12 by South Africa in the 2019 final and while Saturday offers the chance to avenge that defeat, the 28-year-old sees no value in looking backwards.

“Different experience, different context, different opposition. It helps having the experience of playing in a semi-final before, but it’s completely, completely different,” he said. “We have to play the game that’s in front of us.

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“We have to play this South African team, not the South African team of however many years ago. This South African team, not the one that they may be after this.

“We have to be as individuals and as a collective, we have to be really present. We have to be really in the moment to deal with what we need to deal with.”

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Comments

32 Comments
M
Mark 245 days ago

Itoje has said what he believes, what else would one say before a match such as this.
Let’s be clear about Englands chances… do they really have the game to overcome this Springbok side.
Going on recent form, yes they do. But, and it’s a big but, can they step it up in the cauldron of high pressure international rugby, can they eliminate all of their past mistakes, can they be equally ruthless at the breakdown, can they dominate the rucks and mauls, can they win all of their line outs, can they keep their discipline as individual players and as a team.
Can they match the sheer power game that the Springboks no doubt will bring, in a nutshell I don’t think they can.
They may have some purple patches throughout the game but dominance over the full 80 minutes is going to be a huge factor.
Is their defence really good enough against the Boks, when their backs against the wall.
Itoje is a great player and deserves his time in the sun, sure there is a huge amount of growth to come from the English team, as he stated, but growth is exponential in regards to a team developing, a bit like the Wallabies but just the other way around.
I would like to see a real close encounter with little between these two teams, but I fear that that will not be the case.

P
PaPaRumple 246 days ago

Oh god Itoje you dreaming my baby.

R
Roger 246 days ago

You know, when I read the title, I didn't realise Itoje was such a fan of Springbok Rugby. They will be celebrating just like we will on Saturday night. Everyone keen on seeing the Green & Gold in the final.

M
Mark 246 days ago

Interesting narrative from itoji, if any team is “Due a performance” its mostly certainly this England team!!.
I think that the most telling statistic is that 8 of this team were in the starting xv in the 2019 final, have those players kicked on to greater heights, are they better players now than they were back then ?…..patently not i’m afraid.
It's difficult to identify an area where England will hold a key advantage in this game.

T
Tris 246 days ago

I didnt give England a chance on Monday when thinking about it. Then there has been a steady stream of “if England do this” or “remember 2007.” And I started to think well maybe…

Now I remember before Scotland Ireland, all the positive talk from Scotland and how that turned out.

It could happen, but the chances are SA to win. My guess is by about 10 to 15. England looking out of the game from 25 - 65 mins. Then getting a consultation score just to dangle a bit more hope, before it all ends.

K
Kwasi 246 days ago

Well, what else can he say? He is doing this bullshitting for the team, remember.

S
Stephen 246 days ago

Maro Itoje is the biggest piece of garbage there is. I remember that trash kneeling heavily on the throat of a Bok player during the first Lions test🤮

A
AlexH 246 days ago

Knockout rugby and anything can happen. Expect a conservative Bok approach, or not. Rain potential ~ 20-30% could even things up a bit.

N
Ninjin 246 days ago

No you are not a good team at the moment.

J
Jmann 246 days ago

Although I’ll always support a SH team in the RWC over a NH one - England have every right to feel they are in with a shot. They play a game that is suited to pressure rugby and suited to playing the Bok. Whilst they haven’t they looked that flash this RWC they ARE unbeaten, they have talented players and they are capable of beating anyone on their day. SA would be fools to dismiss them.

I actually have England to win by 3 in my fantasy league - but, admittedly that is because I got 3 out of 4 picks wrong in the 1/4s round and have to pick Hail Marys to get back on top.

If it’s an Engl V Arg final I will look like a god in fantasy rugby.

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