Itoje expecting physical French challenge

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Maro Itoje anticipates a physical challenge in Paris when England meet France on 10 March in the NatWest 6 Nations.

England lost last time out to Scotland, their first defeat of the tournament and second overall under the stewardship of head coach Eddie Jones, but Itoje says there is still a lot to play for with two rounds remaining and it begins against Les Bleus.

“France, like French clubs, are very physical, have a strong set piece and a bit of magic in their back line so I expect all of that,” said Itoje.

“They have talented individuals and big men who like to carry hard and who are very confrontational.”

Itoje has featured in two Le Crunch Tests since his international debut in 2016, one in Paris and one at Twickenham – both wins – and the Saracens lock refuses to buy into the notion of home advantage.

“It’s not about playing home or away for me, it’s about how you turn up,” the 23-year-old added.

“I’ve played away a number of times and a lot of those times we have had a good result, not for any magical reason, but because we played better than the opposition.

“For me it is about doing what I do every week, and I intend to put my best foot forward.”

Reconditioning in Oxford

With no NatWest 6 Nations matches this weekend, England convened in Oxford on Tuesday where their focus has been on reconditioning rather than rugby, before Paris preparations commence early next week.

"We have spent time with each other and had a rest, got to go home, now we’re back in and have addressed what needed to be addressed," Itoje explained.

"This week has been good, we’ve started training again, straight back on it, the moral is right back up there and it has been a regeneration week. We’ll get stuck into what needs doing the following week."

England currently occupy second place in the NatWest 6 Nations standings, five points behind leaders Ireland - who they face in the final round of fixtures on 17 March - but Itoje knows England still have an opportunity to win the title.

"The reality of the situation is that often when we win we hardly do everything right, and when we lose like we did last weekend we did a lot wrong, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom; there were some positives to take from the game," he added.

"Some big learnings that if we take on board, we will be a much better team."