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Australia coaching staff impressed by England forward Maro Itoje

Published 07/06/2016

Maro Itoje is set to face Australia at blindside flanker
Maro Itoje is set to face Australia at blindside flanker

Maro Itoje's international career numbers only four caps but he has already made an impression on Australia as England prepare to unleash him at blindside flanker for Saturday's opening Test.

Itoje is poised to replace Chris Robshaw in the belief that his dynamism and ability to make big impacts will help neutralise Wallabies back row duo David Pocock and Michael Hooper at Suncorp Stadium.

The 21-year-old Saracen made his debut as recently as February and to date has only started in the second row, but a breakthrough season decorated with Aviva Premiership and Champions Cup winners has been noted Down Under.

"The kid can play. He's got some game. He's got some good physical presence on the field," Wallabies assistant coach Nathan Grey said.

"And he's been consistent and when you are stepping up to international level, that consistency is probably the hardest thing to maintain.

"I am sure (England head coach) Eddie Jones has got a lot of confidence in him and he's got a lot of confidence in himself.

"It's impressive that he's adapted to Test rugby despite his age. It's good to have people coming through your system like that. He performed at under-20 level and stepped up. He's doing a good job."

Rugby league covert Ben Te'o could make his debut at inside centre in Brisbane on Saturday, although his fitness is shrouded in doubt after he missed training on Monday due to "muscle soreness".

The 29-year-old Worcester-bound midfielder, who switched codes with Leinster in 2014, is well known Down Under due to his spells at Brisbane and South Sydney.

"Ben is a great talent. He's been playing consistently well," Grey said.

"He provides a really good strong ball-carrying option and is very good defensively.

"His only weakness is his time in union. Taking that step up and playing at international level is a big step.

"Everything gets tested at a higher level, you have less time and less space and your skills and execution under pressure are the hardest things to replicate."

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