Maro Itoje had ‘underlying health issue’ affecting England form before World Cup

Earl and England look ahead to Rugby World Cup semi-final

England lock Maro Itoje revealed earlier this year that he had an “underlying” health issue which affected his form ahead of the Rugby World Cup. The Saracens ace, who has won a staggering 74 caps for England, has been one of his country’s most influential players since making his debut in 2016 but suffered a drastic downturn in form last year.

Itoje was part of the England team that finished fourth in this year’s Six Nations after winning just two of their five matches. And after being questioned about his struggles on the pitch, he told iNews: “I guess over the last year or so there have been things which have probably affected my conditioning, which has resulted in me being perhaps a little less energised.

“There have been injury bits, a few niggles, a few things that I’ve had ongoing which I didn’t know were ongoing. It was some health things behind, which I know have had an impact. Due to how I was feeling it probably wasn’t the quality of what I would expect for myself. All of that has kind of been resolved over the last three weeks. I’m now in, I think, a much better position.”

Itoje had been described as a “six out of 10” by 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio, while his former club team-mate Jim Hamilton said the ace was “definitely not the Maro of that 2019 World Cup semi-final [win over] New Zealand.”

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But Itoje insisted his form had not been as bad as some people had portrayed it to be as he added: “I don’t think I’ve been terrible. I don’t think I’ve gone on the pitch being, you know, a liability.

“I still think I’ve made an impact, I don’t think I’ve been a dud on the field. It was an underlying thing, which none of us knew was going on. Through doing some checks, we were able to ID it and then rectify it.”

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Itoje’s form has somewhat improved in recent months and he started three of England’s pool stage matches at the Rugby World Cup. He also took his place in the starting line-up when his team defeated Fiji in the quarter-finals on Sunday to set up a last-four showdown with South Africa.

And ahead of the semi-final clash in Paris on Saturday, Itoje said: “You have to attack it. You have to attack every facet of the game. When you get to the semi-final level of World Cups, you are playing the higher‑quality teams and everything is a contest. Every scrum, every breakdown, every carry, every set piece, you have to make it a contest. Whoever wins the most contests will win the game.”

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