Maro Itoje believes England have what it take to beat the Springboks
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Maro Itoje has urged England to “impose” their game on South Africa in their Rugby World Cup semi-final.
The Springboks enter the game as significant favourites as they seek a second consecutive tournament crown.
Jacques Nienaber’s side edged out hosts France in a captivating quarter-final last weekend, showing somewhere near their top form to reach the top four.
Itoje believes that England cannot afford to simply let South Africa come at them, stressing that he and his teammates intend to put their “best foot forward” to meet the Springboks.
And the lock has confidence that his side can take it to the world champions.
“What’s important for me is that we present the game we want to present,” Itoje, who partners George Martin in England’s second row, said. “It’s about us being the team that we want to be, us playing the type of rugby that we want to play.
“They have certain things that they’re very good at but it’s about us being the England rugby team, about us putting our best foot forward and our individuals, as a team, going out there and playing the type of game we want to play.
“For us, it is just about imposing our game. We don’t want to sit back and just watch them do their thing.”
Before England’s semi-final against New Zealand four years ago, former head coach Eddie Jones memorably cut a kiwi in half with a samurai sword to symbolise the aggression he wanted his side to play with against the All Blacks.
Itoje confirmed that there had been no such demonstrations this week, with Jones’s more successor, the more understated Steve Borthwick, instead emphasising the detail of their gameplan.
And while talking up South Africa’s ability, the second row insists they are far from unbeatable.
“They’re just very fundamentally sound in the areas in which they are good at,” explained Itoje of the Springboks’ strengths. “They have a good kicking game, a good chase, put a lot of pressure on teams. They have a good set-piece, that goes without saying, their breakdown work is good as well.
“We’re going to need to be physical, that goes without saying. We need to be physical in every game, especially when you play against this opposition. We need to be smart with how we play, we don’t want to make poor decisions, we don’t want to play in areas that aren’t smart
“Obviously they are the current world champions, they’ve had a very good World Cup. We’ve played them twice since 2019, they’ve won one, we’ve won one. We’re not talking about a team that has never lost, we’re not talking about a team that is without fault, they are a good team but so are we. For us, it’s about putting our game on the field, it’s not necessarily about sitting just to watch them.”
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