England's Maro Itoje will be tasked with taking on New Zealand with his physical style
London (AFP) - Maro Itoje has been told to take the fight to New Zealand with his physical play even if it leads to punishment from the officials.
Itoje gave away three penalties and was sin-binned in the opening quarter of England’s 12-11 victory over South Africa on Saturday.
But the Saracens star’s bruising style proved essential as England hit back to win in the second half at Twickenham.
The hero of the British and Irish Lions’ victory in the second Test against the All Blacks last year has been given license to continue pushing the boundaries when England attempt to stun Steve Hansen’s world champions this weekend.
“Against South Africa he was physically outstanding and the work he does in the set-piece is huge,” England assistant coach Neal Hatley said on Wednesday.
“In certain aspects of the game, he was playing as well as he did in that breakout year when his club Saracens won everything and he was on fire for the Lions.
“He’s an attritional player. In Australia in 2016 he was leading the charge and we asked him to lead that charge.
“We have lots of players doing it – Kyle Sinckler as well – but we see Maro being able to do that because of his stature and because that’s the way he likes to play the game.
“He likes to be confrontational. He likes to get on the front foot and if it’s a strength, we will encourage him to keep pushing at it.
“If you ask people to play that way, there are sometimes going to be penalties around that.”
England co-captain Dylan Hartley views Itoje, who is set to continue his second-row partnership with George Kruis, as a talisman for the team.
“Through his actions, he inspires people. Through his energy, he motivates people,” Northampton hooker Hartley said.
“He’s the sort of player that doesn’t just dip his toe into the water - he bombs straight in and that is good to follow. He’s growing in that capacity and is a genuine leader.
“You’ve got to be on the right side of the ref, but you’ve got to be on that line, pushing it, because you take every advantage that you can get.”