Waiting game for injured Itoje but England 'nowhere near our best' despite superb showing in Ireland
PUBLISHED: 10:05 03 February 2019
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Maro Itoje will have to wait for a scan to discover the full extent of a knee injury picked up in England's impressive 32-20 win over Ireland.
The former Harpenden St George’s pupil went down in the 54th minute of the 2019 Guinness Six Nations clash in Dublin following a ruck, prompting referee Jerome Garces to say at the time “I think he’s broken his leg”.
The Saracens second-row was able to limp off the field but only time will tell how bad it is according to head coach Eddie Jones.
He said: “Maro’s probably got some sort of medial ligament but like all these things you never know until they get an MRI,”
That was the only sour moment of a tremendous display by England, with four tries giving them a bonus point as well.
Henry Slade crossed twice and Jonny May and Elliot Daly also touched down as England overran opponents who entered the World Cup year as pretenders to New Zealand’s throne.
It was also England’s first success across the Irish Sea in six years and yet worryingly for the rest of the championship, Jones felt there was still plenty more in the tank.
“The intensity at which we played pleased me most,” he said. “When you play Ireland at home you know it’s going to be a physical game and we prepared for that.
“We knew we had to win that battle to win the game. Some games are immensely physical, some are more tactical. We probably shaded them a bit in that area.
“We know they’re a top team. They’re well coached, well drilled and I thought our intensity, particularly in the first part of the game, was outstanding.
“The only thing I know is that the next game will be better. We are a team that’s still going. We’re nowhere near our best. We’re looking forward to playing better than that - and we will.”
Even though this was just the opening round of the championship, it was hard not to look beyond it and to the World Cup in Japan in September and October.
Yet even though England produced a near faultless display against some people’s favourites for the tournament, Jones was not going to be drawn on his team’s chances in Asia.
He said: “These games have got nothing to do with the World Cup. They are stand-alone games that are important between a very good Ireland side and an improving England side.
“We’ll start worrying about where we’re standing in the World Cup when we’re 10 days out from the first game against Tonga.
“I don’t think [Ireland being the best team in the world at the moment] changes in one game. They’ve been consistently good.”