Itoje un­fazed by hosts’ li­ne­out

Tourists con­fi­dent of deal­ing with Re­tal­lick and White­lock

The National - News - Sport - - RUGBY UNION -

Maro Itoje de­scribed plot­ting the down­fall of New Zealand’s much-vaunted li­ne­out as “business as usual”.

The Sara­cens lock will call the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions’ li­ne­out in to­mor­row’s sec­ond All Blacks Test in Welling­ton. Brodie Re­tal­lick and Sam White­lock form the world’s best sec­ond row pair­ing – but Itoje in­sisted he can mas­ter­mind a way to trump one of New Zealand’s many weapons.

Itoje, 22, will part­ner Alun Wyn Jones in the Lions’ en­gine room at West­pac Stadium, where the tourists must win to keep the se­ries alive.

“Call­ing the li­ne­outs changes my role ob­vi­ously,” Itoje said. “But I’ve called li­ne­outs in the past, so it’s not some­thing that’s new.

“In a lot of the games I’ve been call­ing the li­ne­outs on this tour, so it’s not some­thing that’s been sprung upon me. I’ve been pre­par­ing for mo­ments like this.

“So ob­vi­ously there’s a bit more prepa­ra­tion and plan­ning. But it’s business as usual from here.”

Asked to as­sess the size of task in tak­ing on Re­tal­lick and White­lock, Itoje said: “We ac­knowl­edge they are two good op­er­a­tors, very talented guys with a good work ethic. But the chal­lenge on us is to sur­pass that.

“We’ve got a good chal­lenge in front of us: it’s one we’ve pre­pared well for this week, and one we’ll rise to at the week­end. We haven’t come here to be sec­ond-best, we haven’t come here to be sec­ond-fid­dle. We’re go­ing out on Satur­day to do a job, and to get the re­sult we want.”

Itoje has starred across Eng­land’s record-equalling 18-game win­ning streak and Sara­cens’ back-to-back Cham­pi­ons Cup tri­umphs.

The sec­ond row prodigy faces a step up in op­po­si­tion in bid­ding to sub­due Re­tal­lick and White­lock, the game’s pre­mier lock­ing duo.

But the ever-com­posed Sara­cen in­sisted he will be ready for what­ever the All Blacks pro­duce – and tipped Warren Gat­land’s Lions to im­prove from their first Test show­ing.

“Last week was the first time I’d played the All Blacks, and it’s ob­vi­ous they are a talented team with good play­ers,” said Itoje, who came off the bench in the first Test at Eden Park.

“The in­ten­sity was at a high level, but as al­ways it’s about us mak­ing sure we’re right, and do­ing what we can to be fully pre­pared. “Be­cause I don’t think we played to our po­ten­tial last week. I think we let things slip through our hands, and we’ll try our best this week to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen again. “We need to im­prove in the con­tact, the phys­i­cal­ity, we’ve got to switch on and be sharp for the whole game.”

Peter Parks / AFP

Maro Itoje is ready to take on the All Blacks.

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