Maro Itoje will have every chance to prove his readiness for tomorrow’s Twickenham game as England’s camp give a positive assessment of the Lions’ locks who have been ill overnight.
especially given the fact that striker coach Richard Cockerill was dropped from the game after testing positive for Covid – the fourth case in this tournament – Itoje is not a suspected case.
Cockerill tested positive for the virus through a lateral flow test on Friday morning. That was followed by PCR which showed he had Covid-19. All other staff and players have been retested and returned negative results.
Assistant coach Matt Proudfoot said: “Maro is feeling a bit ill overnight and we are giving him every chance to get well.
However, England this morning played against both Joe Launchbury and Ollie Chessum alongside Charlie Ewels in their other starting second in the first leg final.
And confirmation that Nick Isiekwe has been placed on standby may reflect some lingering insecurities in the English camp about Itoje’s preparations.
Finally, Proudfoot notes the benefits of having 30-year-old Launchbury’s rich international experience – 65 caps – but Itoje’s loss of Itoje’s potential as a potentially destructive ball on the ground, in the air and in defence would be a heavy blow for Eddie Jones. beside.
“Maro is a world-class player and his x-factor is the pressure he’s under,” said Proudfoot.
“But then we have Joe, who has all those caps to fill the void and that’s an opportunity. The test matches are really the key areas for the pack and that’s in terms of physical, controllable road gain, setup.
“So this is a battle for which we have been well prepared and we know how good the Irish herd is.
“It was a great opportunity to go after them. We’ve been practicing really, really well and looking at what we’ve done in the last three weeks, it’s just getting more and more competitive.
“The preparation has been excellent. Today when we stepped out onto the pitch you could see the confidence in the players’ eyes.
“We knew we needed to go after them. They go together for big times of the year with a big backup from Leinster, so we know that’s a big plus.
“We were just excited for the opportunity.
“Every test match is a big step forward. Teams are growing, have been in camp longer and it’s always been the case in the Continent that the deeper you go, the more intense it becomes.
“It’s going to be the most intense game we’ve played since the Springboks.”
When another assistant coach, Richard Cockerill, was forced to leave camp after testing positive for Covid, there was some upbeat news as supporter Kyle Sinckler demonstrated his fitness in Twickenham this morning.
Midfielder Henry Slade is quietly confident that his side’s stuttering attack can finally explode with success with the weather setting fair here for a dry run.
“We’re getting pretty close,” he said, admitting he wasn’t sure how well advertised “New England” could actually turn out.
“I cannot reveal what we are doing but we have interesting players with the ball in hand. We have our strengths there and that’s playing against them, not only in the wider channels but also the guys up front who can deliver good results.
“It’s been there in all three games, it’s a bit of a struggle to do that and the challenge now is to produce it in the whole game. Who knows how good that could do us?
“My mindset is to play with the ball and attack so hopefully we will get a chance. I will not force everything for its sake, take each situation and make the right choice for each situation without any bias.
“I don’t know if we consider it pressure. We’re pretty good at focusing on ourselves and what we need to bring.
“We are very good at blocking out outside noise. There is an argument about being defeated and overtaken to win. That is a good feeling.
“Ireland is probably the favorite but we’re confident in ourselves and what we’re doing.”
Slade, 28, had 41 caps but had to wait 17 games and four years to win his first title – but it was a memorable one as his side beat Ireland.
“It was a great day,” he said, expanding with the growing sense that the combination of the midfielder with Marcus Smith inside him and Joe Marchant on the outside was beginning to take shape.
“Beating them anywhere is fine, but Dublin is always a tough place to go. They are a top item. Getting a big win in the Six Nations is always a big thing and that was my first start.
“Our team was dominant there. Then we were – and still are – front-footed dribblers who hit the ball hard and created space in attack.
“It was a day to remember and I hope there will be many more.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/maro-felt-a-little-sick-overnight-england-giving-itoje-every-chance-for-ireland-clash-after-illness-41435892.html ‘Maro felt a bit ill overnight’ – England give Itoje ‘every chance’ to clash with Ireland after illness