Itoje: ‘This will make us stronger and more robust’

Itoje 2000
Maro Itoje hopes short-term pain will result in long-term gain for an England side reflecting on a challenging Guinness Six Nations campaign.

Maro Itoje hopes short-term pain will result in long-term gain for an England side reflecting on a challenging Guinness Six Nations campaign.

The Red Rose began the Championship as defending champions but lost three of their five matches and will finish fifth, a position they last occupied in 2018.

Itoje provided England’s standout moment, crossing for the late score which secured a 23-20 victory over title contenders France in Round 4, but knows his side fell beneath the high standards they set themselves over the course of the competition.

Highlights: Ireland v England

“You never want to go through periods like this, but if this makes us a better team in the long run and makes us a better team when we get back together, then we can move forwards,” he said.

“It will make us stronger and more robust, but at the moment we have to be accountable for our performances.

“In terms of what I believe this team can do and what this team can achieve, nothing has changed. I truly believe that we’ve got something here.

“I do believe we are going somewhere but we have to recover and take our medicine from this Six Nations.”

England were Triple Crown winners in 2020 but the boot has been firmly on the other foot this year, with Ireland following Scotland and Wales in coming out on top against Eddie Jones’ side.

Following Saturday’s 32-18 defeat in Dublin, which ended a run of four consecutive English wins over Ireland in all competitions, Itoje was firm in his belief that the players must take responsibility for the reversal in fortunes and hailed Jones as ‘one of the best coaches I’ve worked with’.

“His work rate, his knowledge, his feeling with the players, the way he goes about his business are genuinely second to none,” said the Saracens star.

“As players, we need to be accountable for our behaviours. At the end of the day, Eddie can’t play the game for us.

“The players need to be accountable and if you ask any player who has been under Eddie, I doubt anyone will say differently. He’s a truly special coach.”

Itoje is not the only England forward who remains confident a revival is around the corner.

Tom Curry, one of his side’s standout performers during this campaign, believes coping with adversity will prove a valuable test of character as the squad prepare for the challenges to come.

“Losing is never easy and there’s stuff we need to fix,” said the 22-year-old.

“The brilliant thing about the feeling in the group is that we’re almost there and it’s just not quite clicking. We’ll go away and fix that. I’m confident we’ll come out of this better, absolutely.

“We have full belief in this group of players. We’ve been pushing and working hard. Sport sometimes doesn’t go according to plan but we have gelled tightly as a team off the pitch.

“It’s never going to be perfect. We’d like it to be and we are working hard. We are grinding out these tough times and the way we do that to make things better is a hugely important part of the development of individuals and also a team.”