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'There is more to come from us' - Itoje backs Lions to improve for second Test

The second row was superb in the tourists’ win over the Boks last night.

Itoje embraces Rory Sutherland.
Itoje embraces Rory Sutherland.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

OUTSTANDING LIONS LOCK Maro Itoje believes the best is still to come from Warren Gatland’s side as they look to seal a series success against the Springboks next weekend.

The Lions were 22-17 victors in yesterday’s first Test in Cape Town as Itoje delivered a destructive performance in the second row.

Gatland’s men had trailed 12-3 at the break after a shaky first half in which their discipline was poor and they came off second best in the kicking battle.

A maul try from hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie was crucial early in the second half as the Lions wrestled back momentum and finally pushed ahead in the 63rd minute before holding the Boks out. 

While Itoje and his team-mates were delighted with the result, he feels they can deliver an even better showing second time out.

“In the first half, we didn’t start with the [required] intensity and we were probably a little bit too frantic,” said Itoje last night. “So there’s so much growth in this team.

“Game by game we’re getting better, we’re learning lessons so I think there is more to come from us but the onus is on us to look at what we’ve done.

“Obviously, today was a great win but I’m a man who likes to look at history and see how other tours have unfolded. Looking at the 2001 Tests in Australia, they won the first Test quite convincingly and then went on to lose the next two.

“We’re happy but we know that we need to be better next week, stronger.”

british-and-irish-lion-maro-itoje-wins-a-line-out-from-south-africas-eben-etzebeth Itoje claims a lineout for the Lions.

Itoje is well aware that the wounded Boks will produce a big backlash in the second Test.

“South Africa are a very proud rugby nation,” said Itoje. “I know they are big on analysis, so they’ll look at that game a lot, pick up trends, pick up ways they can improve.

“I think they are just going to come with a higher intensity so they are going to come harder at the scrum, harder at the lineout, harder with their kicking game.

“That was probably where they got most change out of us today so they’re probably going to look to attack that. So we need to be better in all three of those areas, we need to be cleaner, more efficient, and do a lot better at our breakdown.”

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Itoje played the full 80 minutes for the Lions last night, producing some massive moments in defence.

His second row partner, Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones, also managed to complete the full game despite having only recently returned from his shoulder injury.

“He was very vocal,” said Itoje of Jones. “Alun Wyn is a high-energy senior citizen. He is a high-energy man so he was very vocal. But for occasions like this you don’t really need to talk too much.

“He had read the room and read the environment and what needed to be said and he said the appropriate things at the appropriate times.

“Alun Wyn is a very experienced player and I thought Courtney [Lawes] was fantastic as well. There was a lot of small talk, a lot of staying in the fight, keep working hard, having faith in what we’re doing and also being disciplined within that.”

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Murray Kinsella

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