Itoje blow for England

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 13:34
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NEWS: England coach Eddie Jones will be sweating over the fitness of start lock Maro Itoje.

The talented youngster is in doubt for England's year-end Tests - which include encounters with South Africa,  Fiji, Argentina and Australia.

Itoje sustained a hand injury while playing for Saracens, who scored a gritty 44-26 bonus-point triumph over Scarlets in a European Cup match at the weekend.

Saracens replaced the Welsh side at the top of Pool Three thanks to tries from Mako Vunipola, Marcelo Bosch, Chris Wyles (two) and young centre Nick Tompkins - who only found out he was playing at the last moment after skipper Brad Barritt injured his neck.

But both sides suffered injuries ahead of the busy November international period - with Itoje picking up a right hand injury, while Scarlets' Welsh fullback Liam Williams limped off.

Itoje will undergo a scan over the coming days to determine the severity of the injury.

England will hope the 21-year-old has avoided any serious damage, as his setback comes just days after Saracens' other England lock George Kruis also joined a growing injury list.

The lock has underwent minor surgery on his ankle last week and is expected to be out of action for a number of weeks.

The 26-year-old  Kruis has been a really integral part of head coach Eddie Jones' England squad and so far has started every match under the Australian winning nine games from nine and securing a Grand Slam and a series whitewash over the Wallabies.

Sarries' Director of Rugby Mark McCall confirmed that it is a case of waiting to see if Itoje will be fit to face the Springboks.

"Maro came off with a sore hand," McCall said in his post-match interview.

"That needs to be examined and we'll know more after the x-ray has taken place."

England's squad for the upcoming series has already been depleted due to injuries - including flank James Haskell, Sam Jones, Mike Williams and Jack Clifford.

Mark McCall praised a number of key individual performances after the game against Scarlets.

The Saracens Director of Rugby singled out the likes of Michael Rhodes, Mako Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Nick Tompkins who all shone in Saracens victory over Scarlets at Allianz Park.

"I think there were a lot of strong performances, a lot of strong individual performances across the team," McCall said.

"Michael Rhodes had a really prominent game today carried really well for us, Mako, Owen Farrell was magnificent for us. Nick Tompkins came in at the 11th hour and did a really good job for us as well so some good performances across the team."

Reflecting on the game as a whole McCall admitted he was pleased with the win but added there were still things to improve on for his side.

"We're pleased we got the win that we wanted, we got the bonus point that we wanted," he said.

"[We] did a lot of good things in the game, but also did some not so good things and obviously we don't like to concede 26 points at home. We made some errors along the way and a few more handling errors that we would have liked, but that would be a bit glass half empty because some of the rugby that we produced was really nice."