Itoje expecting intense battle with Wales

Maro Itoje expects Saturday’s NatWest 6 Nations clash with Wales at Twickenham to be intense and physical.

England began their title defence last weekend with a bonus point 46-15 win over Italy in Rome, whilst Wales stunned Scotland 34-7 in Cardiff, and Itoje is looking forward to rekindling old rivalries in round two.

“There will be a lot of passion; it will be intense and physical. It’s a great game to be a part of,” said the Saracens lock.

“I’m sure Twickenham will be rocking and hopefully we can put in a decent performance for the crowd.”

Itoje is familiar with Wales; his second Test start came in the 25-21 victory over them in the 2016 Six Nations. He then met them again a year later, when England struck late through Elliot Daly to win 21-16 in Cardiff.

This came before a British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, where the 23-year-old played under the stewardship of current Wales head coach Warren Gatland, and packed down in the second row for two Tests alongside their captain, Alun Wyn Jones.

But in preparation for Saturday’s instalment, Itoje’s mantra isn’t familiarity or friendship, its focus.

“We are only focusing on ourselves; we are not really focusing too much on what they are going to do,” he explained.

“We are more concerned with implementing our game plan rather than worrying about what they are or aren’t going to do.”

"We will see who wins"

Reflecting on last Sunday’s win against Italy, Itoje labelled it a ‘decent performance', and says although set piece was an area that went well, there is always room for improvement.

“I don’t think I’ve played in a game where you’re completely happy with everything that has gone on, but it is a good place to start from – a good solid platform,” he added.

“We have a very professional group here who are ready to work hard.”

England head coach Eddie Jones selected his squad on to face Wales clash this weekend, as his side aim to become the first team in history to win the Six Nations three times in-a-row.

Wales have already named their team for Saturday, with Gatland stating his men aren't afraid of going to Twickenham, and suggesting England's shorter turnaround could make a big difference.

Jones will do likewise on Thursday morning, but in the meantime, Itoje insists all of England’s motivations are internal.

I think you can get drawn into these socio-political analysis of things, but at the end of the day it’s 23 guys against 23, and we will see who wins.”