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Maro Itoje in focus

Chris Robshaw's shoulder injury paved the way for England head coach Eddie Jones to hand Maro Itoje his first international start at flanker in England's RBS 6 Nations victory against France on Saturday.

The highly rated 22-year-old actually made his England debut at number six - as a substitute against Italy last February - but has subsequently been preferred at lock.

With Robshaw unavailable, Itoje had been tipped by many insiders in the game to keep hold of the number six shirt - not only for England, but the British and Irish Lions too.

But on the basis of his performance here at Twickenham, that theory could be viewed as somewhat premature.

While Itoje was arguably the best of a largely disappointing first-choice England back row - Tom Wood also delivered an underwhelming performance - the hosts greatly missed Robshaw's calming presence and the injured Billy Vunipola at number eight.

Despite a number of theatrical roars and fist pumps, Itoje was guilty of allowing the match to pass him by and guilty of indiscipline, too.

Indeed it was telling that when James Haskell was sent on in the second half - replacing Joe Launchbury - Itoje slotted back into the second row.

Haskell's introduction was among a flurry of changes made by Jones - including that of try-winning substitute Ben Te'o - and it helped turn the game in England's favour.

Perhaps the experiment of playing Itoje at number six could now be put on hold when England travel to Cardiff next Saturday.


From Belfast Telegraph