Jones backs Itoje to fill Robshaw's shoes

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 22:00

REACTION: England coach Eddie Jones is confident Maro Itoje can make up for the absence of Chris Robshaw.

The Grand Slam champions begin the defence of their Six Nations title against France at Twickenham on Saturday.

Saracens star Itoje has been shifted from his usual lock role for a first Test appearance at blindside flank after former England captain Robshaw was ruled out of the whole Six Nations with a shoulder injury.

Robshaw has been a central figure during England's run of 14 successive wins, 13 of which have come under Australian boss Jones.

"He [Itoje] has got big shoes to fill," said Jones at England's training base in Bagshot, southwest of London, on Thursday.

"Chris Robshaw has been one of our integral players in the team with his work rate but Maro has trained well in that position and we believe he can make a really good fist of it.

"He brings his line-out skills. He will give us a third jumper in the line which will make Steve Borthwick [the England forwards coach] happy.

"It's a great opportunity for Maro to show his versatility, he's trained well in that position and we believe he could make a really good fist of it."

England will be without lock George Kruis, Itoje's regular second row partner for both club and country, because of a knee injury suffered in training on Wednesday.

"George is with the surgeon now and we should get more information on him this [Thursday] afternoon," said Jones.

"We haven't given up hope of him featuring in the Six Nations."

In the backs, Jones has brought in Elliot Daly on the left wing for his first Test since he was sent off for a dangerous tackle against Argentina in November.

"Elliot did superbly for us in the autumn," said Jones. "He has a big left-foot kick and he has genuine pace."

Turning to France, who ran both world champions New Zealand and Australia close in two defeats in November, Jones said: "France have been improving steadily under (coach) Guy Noves. They have really got the passion back into their game.

"We have to be very rigorous and disciplined in the way we play. We have a very strong bench to finish it off for us."

Agence France-Presse

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