England’s Itoje ‘won’t forget’ Scotland loss

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UNITED KINGDOM: Maro Itoje (pix) hopes the pain of England’s lacklustre loss to Scotland will fuel a revival in the reigning champions’ Six Nations campaign.

England were outplayed in all departments during their tournament opener as visitors Scotland won 11-6 to record their first win at Twickenham since 1983 in a match marking the 150th anniversary of rugby’s oldest international fixture.

Saturday’s reverse was one of England’s worst displays since Eddie Jones took over as coach after their first-round exit at a 2015 World Cup on home soil, with the final scoreline not doing justice to Scotland’s superiority.

“You never really forget these days, you never really forget these moments, and to be honest I don’t really want to forget them,” Itoje said.

“I want to move on from it, but I don’t want to forget it as it keeps you sharp,” the lock added.

“Losing like this at Twickenham is never what you dream of, so it’s definitely not ideal.”

England were harried up front by a dynamic Scotland pack where flanker Hamish Watson and lock Jonny Gray led the way, with backs Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and Cameron Redpath maintaining the Scots’ dominance in open play.

Jones, as he did after their 2019 World Cup final loss to South Africa, blamed himself for England’s defeat.

But Itoje, while congratulating a “deserving” Scotland on their win, said England’s players had to take responsibility for this loss.

“We’re the ones on the field, we’re the ones responsible for our own performance,” he said.

“We didn’t give the best account of ourselves and as players we have to do better because that wasn’t good enough.”

The Saracens second-row added: “It’s a tough lesson to take but we’ve got four more games to control our destiny.

“The most important thing is what we do next and how we move forward and that’s what I’m excited about – how we can galvanise ourselves and move forward.”

It was a theme echoed by fly-half Owen Farrell, ahead of England’s second-round match at home to Italy on Feb 13.

“I think this will light a fire in us for the rest of the tournament, not just waiting to see what happens but making it happen,” he said.

Farrell and Itoje were two of four Saracens players in England’s starting XV on Saturday who had not played a match since the Nations Cup final win over France on December 6, with the London club now in a second-tier Championship yet to start amid the coronavirus pandemic after the team’s relegation from the Premiership for salary cap breaches.

“Maybe it wasn’t the ideal preparation but it is what it is and we’ve got to be good enough to be able to cope with that,” said veteran Australian coach Jones. – AFP





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