Matt Dawson has said he feels for Maro Itoje, as the England lock is occasionally being made to fill in at first receiver.
Itoje had a great game against Wales as he was an absolute nuisance in defence for Wayne Pivac’s side, while he also played a very important, albeit illegal, role in England’s sole try on Saturday.
The 27-year-old is one of the most athletic and skilful locks in rugby, although it’s fair to say that his distribution isn’t quite on the same level as an international fly-half’s.
Former England scrum-half Dawson was speaking to the BBC and questioned why Eddie Jones has Itoje occasionally act as a first receiver (the role a fly-half primarily fulfils), arguing that it doesn’t suit the lock’s skill set.
Matt Dawson on Maro Itoje.
“Another thing that did not make sense to me was how England used Maro Itoje,” Dawson said.
“There were two or three times in the first half he was playing first receiver and doing little drop-off balls. Someone somewhere thinks that is the best use of Itoje but you are not utilising your players in the best way.
“If it is Kyle Sinckler I get it. He can run at pace, tip people off, look like he is getting the ball when he is not. But Itoje will either truck it up or, if he stands at first receiver, he just pivots and passes it on. There is no threat.
“It is all a bit awkward and I feel a bit for Itoje. You know he has been told to do it but why would you do that to someone who wants to take people on and get into contact?”
You know the vibesss ✨??@EnglandRugby pic.twitter.com/1KOZHGOQ7m
— Maro Itoje (@maroitoje) February 26, 2022
The Saracens man is crucial to Eddie Jones’ side.
While it may be true that Itoje isn’t best utilised as a first receiver, it didn’t stop him getting through plenty of work against Wales.
Itoje made 11 carries, 11 tackles and won three turnovers against Wales, and has become very adept at the dark arts, having been regularly penalised in last year’s Six Nations.
Things haven’t quite clicked for England yet in this year’s championship, but Itoje is in great form and has come up with plenty of big moments in the last three games.
England came away from Twickenham with a win, their eighth in-a-row on home soil, although another second half lapse like the ones they suffered against Scotland and Wales would likely see them suffer defeat to Ireland.
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