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I'm humbled by World Breakthrough award: Itoje

By Duncan Bech

England second row Maro Itoje has been voted Breakthrough Player of the Year at the World Rugby awards.

The 22-year-old was nominated alongside New Zealand pair Anton Lienert-Brown and Ardie Savea and is rewarded for an outstanding debut year in which he has won seven caps, including a Grand Slam and 3-0 whitewash of Australia.

"I'm very humbled, very honoured and very happy to win. I'd like to thank the England team and my club Saracens for all the support I've had," Itoje said.

"I hope there's more to come, I'd be disappointed if I've peaked already. The last 12 months have gone well, so I can't complain."

Itoje was ruled out of England's autumn campaign with a hand injury and is not expected back until December.

He added: "I'm on the road to recovery. I'm not quite there yet, but hopefully it will happen sooner rather than later."

Meanwhile, Eddie Jones insists the key to defeating Fiji and extending England's winning streak to 12 Tests is to "bore them to death".

The autumn was launched in impressive fashion with a resounding 37-21 victory over South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday, a result that ended a decade of failure against the Springboks.

Next up in the Old Mutual Wealth Series are the free-spirited Fijians, whose strengths lie in their athleticism and attacking wizardry, so Jones is hoping to frustrate them into submission.

"We have to bore them to death. You go to Fiji and everyone is throwing 15-metre torpedo passes, flicking the ball through their legs, side stepping," Jones said. "If they can't do that they get bored. If they get bored they don't want to play and when they do that you get points.

"We are going to win the game and I want to win it conclusively. To win it conclusively we have to bore them to death. It doesn't mean playing bad rugby, it means being smart."

England emerged handsome 35-11 winners against Fiji in last autumn's World Cup opener, but the scoreline failed to reflect a match that saw the hosts lead just 18-11 heading into the final quarter.

"We spent Friday night watching Fiji. The last time England played Fiji at Twickenham it was a very inconclusive performance," Jones said. "We want a conclusive performance on Saturday, then we'll worry about Argentina and Australia."

In a sign of Jones' confidence in the number of weapons in England's armoury, the head coach insists the weather against Fiji is irrelevant after scoring four tries against South Africa in damp conditions.

"The weather doesn't matter," added Jones.

"It doesn't matter with this team - we are completely adaptable."

Belfast Telegraph


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