Itoje urges England to make dominance tell against Wales

Maro Itoje of England looks on during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations match between Italy and England at Olimpico Stadium on October 31, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Sporting stadiums around Italy remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Maro Itoje of England looks on during the 2020 Guinness Six Nations match between Italy and England at Olimpico Stadium on October 31, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Sporting stadiums around Italy remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Maro Itoje wants England to make more of their dominance after an 18-7 win over Ireland in the Autumn Nations Cup at Twickenham on Saturday.

England's second successive victory in Pool A, following a 40-0 rout of Georgia, saw the Six Nations champions surge into an 18-0 lead with half an hour left after two Jonny May tries, including a stunning solo effort from deep inside his own 22, and a couple of penalties from captain Owen Farrell.

Yet for much of the a match it was as if England wanted to test their defence, with the hosts making a staggering 238 tackles compared to Ireland's 72, according to the official statistics.

At no stage did England look like losing, yet a winning margin of 11 points did not seem a fair reflection of how they defeated Ireland for the fourth match in a row.

"That's the next step really for us," said Itoje, named man-of-the-match after an impressive display that saw the lock make 24 tackles of his own.

"It's important to remember that Ireland are a serious team. We weren't playing against mugs out there," the Saracens second row added of a side coached by Andy Farrell, Owen's father.

England will be assured of finishing top of Pool A and a place in the showpiece match of December's finals weekend if they win away in Wales on November 28.

But while England usually find themselves facing a hostile crowd in Cardiff when in Wales, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic means next weekend's encounter will be played behind closed doors at Llanelli's Parc Y Scarlets.

- 'Intensity' -

"I don't think playing anywhere in Wales is easy," said Itoje, with England about to face a Welsh side still under pressure from their own public following an 18-0 win over Georgia on Saturday that ended a run of six straight defeats.

"It doesn't matter where you're playing, you're still playing Wales and whether it's at the Principality, the Scarlets stadium, or a little park, they are going to bring that same intensity."

The England-Ireland game was also played without spectators because of Covid-19, with the players' shouts echoing round the stands.

Indeed, just before the botched Ireland line-out that sparked May's stunning length-of-the-field score, England could be heard saying "Pressure on Kelleher here, pressure on the throw," in an attempt to rile Ireland hooker Ronan Kelleher.

Moments later, the 22-year-old did make a mess of his throw, with Itoje first to the loose ball before it was worked to May.

Itoje, tipped as a possible captain of the British and Irish Lions for next year's series against world champions South Africa, has upset some traditionalists by appearing to taunt his opponents.

But the 26-year-old insisted he was doing nothing out of the ordinary in a bid to compensate for the lack of a capacity 80,000 crowd on Saturday.

"As players we've kind of got used to playing the game without any fans in the stadium, which is quite sad and I hope that situation can change as soon as Covid allows," said Itoje, capped 41 times by England.

"Now that there are no fans, I think you can just hear me more! With no background noise, everything that is said on the pitch is probably more audible."

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