Australia Series No 6. Maro Itoje in line to start First  Test and even the Aussies are impressed

Australia Series No 6. Maro Itoje in line to start First Test and even the Aussies are impressed

Australia Series No 6. Maro Itoje in line to start First Test and even the Aussies are impressed

The Wallabies have joined Maro Itoje 's growing fan club as the European Player of the Year prepares to pull on the England No6 shirt for the First Test against Australia on Saturday. The 21-year-old Saracens forward is set to replace Chris Robshaw in the back row, allowing Joe Launchbury to reclaim a second row spot alongside George Kruis to increase the height and weight of the pack.

Itoje burst onto the international scene in the Six Nations and helped England win a first Grand Slam for 13 years and now he will be tasked with helping negate one of the best back-row trios in rugby. David Pocock, Scott Fardy and Michael Hooper were outstanding in last year's World Cup and will be on duty against England in Brisbane.

"The kid [Itoje] can play," said Wallabies assistant coach Nathan Grey. "He's got some game. He's got some good physical presence on the field. And he's been consistent and when you are stepping up to international level, that consistency is probably the hardest thing to maintain. "I am sure [England head coach] Eddie Jones has a lot of confidence in him and he's got a lot of confidence in himself. It's impressive that he's adapted to Test rugby despite his age. It's good to have people coming through your system like that. He performed at Under-20 level and stepped up. He's doing a good job."

Robshaw, captain under former head coach Stuart Lancaster, was switched from No7 to blind-side flanker when Jones took over and received plenty of plaudits for his tireless work during the Grand Slam campaign. However, Jones is well aware of the need to inject pace into the back row and Itoje has considerable experience in the position having featured there earlier in his fledgling senior career. Itoje also solves a line-out problem as Robshaw and James Haskell were only occasional jumpers for England in the Six Nations while Billy Vunipola, who completed the back row, is used as a lifter.

With Itoje in the pack, England can move him around the line-out and also utilise his outstanding athleticism to disrupt the opposition ball. Launchbury was man of the match in the win over Wales at Twickenham last month, a game Robshaw missed as he was attending his brother's wedding. While Itoje is one of the main threats facing Australia, Grey also acknowledges the danger that could be posed by Ben Te'o. The former rugby league star is set to fill one of the midfield roles for England with Owen Farrell moving to fly-half. Te'o missed training yesterday due to muscle soreness but could be named in England's team on Thursday. The 29-year-old Worcester centre, who switched codes with Leinster in 2014, is well known Down Under due to his spells at Brisbane and South Sydney.

Grey believes the only problem Te'o must overcome is his lack of knowledge of rugby union at Test level where the speed of the game is considerably faster than he is used to. Grey added: "Ben is a great talent. He's been playing consistently well. He provides a really good strong ball-carrying option and is very good defensively. His only weakness is his time in union. Taking that step up and playing at international level is a big step. "Everything gets tested at a higher level, you have less time and less space and your skills and execution under pressure are the hardest things to replicate."

– Entry was posted on June 8th, 2016 by James Haskell

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