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Itoje isn't ready yet: Jones

By Duncan Bech

Eddie Jones refuses to fast-track Maro Itoje into his England team, but the Saracens lock could yet feature in Saturday's RBS Six Nations opener against Scotland.

Jones was present at Allianz Park last weekend to see Itoje's man of the match performance against Bath, describing it as his finest game for the Aviva Premiership champions.

The 21-year-old was omitted from the 23 retained in preparation for the trip to Edinburgh with Jones believing elements of his game still need work before he is given his first cap.

His hand may be forced, however, if Courtney Lawes fails to recover from his hamstring injury with Thursday's team announcement set as the deadline to prove his fitness.

"Courtney is progressing. We'll give him until Thursday. It looks pretty positive. He probably won't train until Thursday but we're hopeful," Jones said.

"I went to Saracens and it was the best game I've seen Itoje play for them. It was really good.

"It's never too late to get in the 23. The 23 isn't set in stone, but generally speaking the 23 that we kept are the front runners.

"Now they can play themselves out of selection by injury and attitude, so there are opportunities.

"But remember that my job is to make Test rugby players. There's a step from club rugby to Test rugby.

"Some players you can expose too late, some too early. Maro is definitely progressing, but he needs just a little more time."

Jones still hopes to have Manu Tuilagi available for the final two rounds despite the Leicester centre suffering a hamstring injury.

Belfast Telegraph

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