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Maro Itoje heeding history’s warning after Lions’ opening Test win in South Africa


Captain Marvel: British & Irish Lions’ captain Alun Wyn Jones on the charge against South Africa

Captain Marvel: British & Irish Lions’ captain Alun Wyn Jones on the charge against South Africa

Captain Marvel: British & Irish Lions’ captain Alun Wyn Jones on the charge against South Africa

Having brushed up on his recent British and Irish Lions history, the star man in the first Test victory over the Springboks knows the tourists will need to find another gear in the rematch this weekend.

Maro Itoje excelled throughout the win over the World champions and, after a greater number of his team-mates stepped towards a similar level after the break, they stand just one win away from what will be a famous series win. 

Itoje, though, has stressed the Lions must learn just as many lessons from triumph as the Springboks undoubtedly will from defeat.

"There's so much growth in this team, game on game we're getting better, we're learning lessons,” said the 26-year-old. 

“I think there's more to come from us but the onus is on us to look at what we've done.

"This was a great win but I'm a man that likes to look at history and see how other tours have unfolded.

"Looking at 2001 in Australia, they won the first Test quite considerably and lost the next two.

"We're happy with today but we know we need to be better next week.

“We know the Springboks are coming. We need to be stronger and hopefully get the result that we want.

"South Africa is a very proud rugby nation.

“From what I've heard they're very big on analysis. They'll analyse that game a lot, pick out trends, pick out areas where they can improve.

“I think they'll come with a higher intensity.

“They'll come harder at the scrum, harder at the line-out. They're going to come harder with their kicking game, that's probably where they got the most change out of us (in the first Test), so they'll look to attack that.

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“We need to be better in all three of those areas. We need to be cleaner, we need to be more efficient, especially in our kicking game, our breakdown work.”

The Lions have already shown the ability to problem-solve, putting what was a poor first-half behind them to turn a 12-3 deficit into a 22-17 win, a result fittingly sealed with Itoje’s third big turnover in a dominant individual display.

"The first-half we came out with a decent intensity but not with the intensity we needed to,” he reflected.

“Most importantly, to our detriment, we were giving away silly penalties, we weren't as disciplined as we needed to be.

“In the second-half we came out with a higher intensity and we kept our discipline.

“And as a result we were able to put a bit more pressure on them.

“We just had to trust ourselves, trust our systems and lift our intensity.

“At 12-3 down, often when you're in that kind of situation you have two choices - just continue what you're doing and let the scoreboard get away from you or pull up your sleeves and try to turn it around. We tried the latter and fortunately it was successful.” 

Meanwhile, Alun Wyn Jones has reminded his celebrating team that the ultimate prize has yet to be claimed.
“We know what we’ve achieved but we also know what we haven’t achieved. There is still plenty to do and this is a three-Test series,” the Lions captain said.
“Knowing the calibre of the player and the attitude our opposition have, we have to be better again – first and foremost within ourselves. But we also have to deal with what we know is going to come next weekend.
“There were smiles after the game. In any sport, you have to enjoy moments like this as they don’t come round very often.
“But the caveat to that is we are only a third done and that message has already been planted. It’s a time for everyone to take stock of where we are and be ready to move on to next weekend.”
Remarkably for a 35-year-old who had dislocated his shoulder during a warm-up match only four weeks earlier, initially ruling him out of the tour, Jones finished the match.
“I feel like I’ve been in a Test! My effort was borne out of getting back into this group,” said Jones, who has been dubbed ‘Lazarus’ and ‘Miracle Man’ because of his rapid recovery.
“I didn’t know I was going to be selected but I’m happy to be part of it and add to the energy the guys brought.”

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