Martin Johnson has urged Maro Itoje to be more cautious in deciding when to go for turnovers in an effort to fix his disciplinary problems.
England conceded 14 penalties in their last Six Nations match against Wales, with Itoje conceding five of those penalties himself.
Johnson was speaking to the Daily Mail about England’s lack of discipline and warned Itoje that referees are now looking more closely at him due to his recent high penalty count.
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“Maro’s the poster boy of penalties. I was doing the England coaching job when he was coming through at Saracens. The guys there, like Paul Gustard, rated him very highly as a player and a leader,” Johnson said.
“He’s a very good player and he can be very effective at turning balls over, charging balls down. He’s just got to dial it back one degree and make sure he’s squeaky clean.
“Unless it’s 100 per cent on, he’s just got to leave it. It’s risk-reward. He’s got to realise that the referee is looking at him particularly hard and he’s got to hold back a little bit.”
‘He is one of the best players in the world’
Eddie Jones’ side have conceded 41 penalties in their first three games of the Six Nations, 15 more than Ireland’s total tally of 26 in their three matches to date.
Many of those penalties have been conceded in the opening stages of each of their matches, something which has affected England negatively in the latter stages of matches as referees are watching out for more indiscretions.
While the England head coach has admitted that his team need to improve their discipline, Jones suggested that Itoje was harshly penalised after the match with Wales.
“He is one of the best players in the world and he plays the game on the edge. Sometimes the referees tend to over-referee a player like him,” Jones said.
“At the same time, there are areas of the game he needs to tidy up and he knows that. He’s a good boy. A good player. There are just a few things in his game he needs to tidy up.
“There are some individual issues [with discipline], which will be dealt with on an individual basis. On a team basis, the biggest thing was the roll away in the tackle. We will just have to do more additional work in that area.”