Eng­land en­dorse their en­forcers

The New Zealand Herald - - Supersport - Char­lie Mor­gan

Eng­land are not con­cerned that Maro Itoje may be de­vel­op­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for ill-dis­ci­pline and will con­tinue to ask their lock to lead the charge against New Zealand.

Itoje has con­ceded 37 penal­ties since the start of Ed­die Jones’ ten­ure as Eng­land head coach, se­cond only to Dan Cole on 38. Since the be­gin­ning of 2018, he has con­ceded 17 penal­ties. Mako Vu­nipola is next on the list, with seven fewer.

Aus­tralian ref­eree An­gus Gard­ner sent Itoje to the sin bin in the 16th minute of Eng­land’s 12-11 win over South Africa last week­end for killing the ball at a break­down just me­tres from Eng­land’s try-line. It was his first yel­low card in test rugby and his se­cond of­fence of the match, the Sara­cen hav­ing taken out an air­borne Eben Etze­beth at an early li­ne­out.

Al­though the hosts emerged un­scathed from their 10 min­utes down to 14 men, even pulling back three points, they were in­debted to some re­mark­able waste­ful­ness from the Spring­boks.

While ac­knowl­edg­ing a need for his team to curb their penalty count – they ended up con­ced­ing 11 to South Africa’s five – Neal Hat­ley praised Itoje’s “huge” con­tri­bu­tion to the scrum and li­ne­out and in­sisted that the 24-year-old would con­tinue to act as Eng­land’s chief ag­gres­sor when New Zealand ar­rive at Twick­en­ham. “The type of player that he is, he’s go­ing to be at­tri­tional,” he said. “You saw in Aus­tralia in 2016, he was lead­ing the charge. We asked him to lead that charge. If you ask peo­ple to play that way, there are some­times go­ing to be penal­ties around that. “Could we im­prove our dis­ci­pline? One hun­dred per cent. We have to, be­cause you can­not af­ford to be giv­ing in­ter­na­tional sides set-piece op­por­tu­ni­ties in­side the 22. That’s not just Maro, that’s as a for­ward pack. ‘‘We gave [away] a soft off­side penalty in the mid­dle of the pitch, 40 me­tres out which gave [South Africa] their first points.

“As a pack, that’s some­thing we have to do.’’

Hat­ley also put for­ward tight­head prop Kyle Sinck­ler as an­other tone­set­ting en­forcer, but sug­gested that Itoje, likely to re­main along­side Ge­orge Kruis in the se­cond row rather than shift­ing to blind­side flanker, was get­ting “bet­ter and bet­ter” and en­dorsed his “con­fronta­tional” style. “We see Maro be­ing able to do that be­cause of his stature and be­cause that’s the way he likes to play the game,” Hat­ley added.

“He is con­fronta­tional. ‘‘He likes to get on the front foot and if it’s a strength, we will en­cour­age him to keep push­ing at it.”

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