Australia Series No. 7 -James Haskell gives Maro Itoje ringing endorsement ahead of move to back row for Australia series: 'Every time he has tried something he has won it'

Australia Series No. 7 -James Haskell gives Maro Itoje ringing endorsement ahead of move to back row for Australia series: 'Every time he has tried something he has won it'

Australia Series No. 7 -James Haskell gives Maro Itoje ringing endorsement ahead of move to back row for Australia series: 'Every time he has tried something he has won it'

Maro Itoje has all the attributes to make a smooth transition from lock to flanker and continue the prodigious start to his rugby career, according to England's most experienced back-rower. James Haskell will line up at openside against Australia at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, with Itoje filling the blindside role in place of Chris Robshaw. It is a bold move by head coach Eddie Jones and his assistants, Paul Gustard and Steve Borthwick, to shift the rookie at this stage but all the signs are that he has the playing ability and the composure to cope. 

Itoje is a mobile, athletic forward who is effective over the ball at the breakdown and a formidable tackler. He has operated at No 6 in the past, so it is not new territory for him. He will also go into the series opener on a roll, having been part of a Grand Slam triumph with England, a double success with Saracens and claiming the European Player of the Year award.

Haskell has confidence in the rookie to adapt and maintain his personal momentum. Asked if Itoje has the skill-set to hold his own against the outstanding home pack, the veteran said: 'Considering he has won every player award at the moment, every time he takes the field he wins something and every time he has tried once at something he has won it, I think he is over-qualified Haskell said on Itoje's switch: 'Every time he takes the field he wins something. I think he is over-qualified' 'He has been great and he has played all sorts of positions with Saracens. I have said this until I am blue in the face ... it is about balance of a back row. 'It doesn't matter what number you have got on your shirt or what you are doing, that (balance) is far more important. 'So if that (playing at blindside) was an option then I am sure he would do outstandingly well there.'

Cross-code centre Ben Te'o, a new addition to the England squad for this tour, is in contention to start on Saturday after returning to training on Tuesday - having missed Monday's session. He was subjected to an initiation ceremony by the other players on Sunday and Haskell gave an insight into the light-hearted antics. 'We had a little Ant 'n' Dec-style Saturday Takeaway, with Danny Care and Jamie George taking up the roles,' he said. 'Danny Care actually looked like Dec's brother, so I think he was Dec and Jamie George was Ant. We just got him (Te'o) in and asked him a few questions. It was actually amazing to find out about his achievements (in rugby league). It's good to know what he is about.'

Te'o was asked to pledge his allegiance to Australia but decided to commit his future to England instead It emerged last week that Te'o expressed an interest in returning to Australia in order to represent the Wallabies but was deterred by the residency qualification process, so opted to sign for Worcester and push for an England call-up instead.

The 29-year-old also posted a picture on social media last summer, showing him wearing an Ireland shirt and clutching a fist to his chest, as a sign of solidarity with former Leinster team-mates. Haskell suggested that he would only be sure about the newcomer's commitment to the cause when he plays alongside him in a Test, but in principle he has no issue with his integration. Asked if the squad would want reassurance about how much Te'o cares about representing the country, he said: 'For me, you never know that until you see people play 'The way the coaches run the place, you have to be 100 per cent committed to everything and if you're not that comes out very clearly. 'From everything I've seen of him, he is 100 per cent committed. Any professional sportsman who has a chance to play at the highest level and pull on a shirt for a national team is going to want to be part of that. 'It doesn't matter what accent you've got, what your name is and where you're from.'

Meanwhile, England's coaching team has been bolstered on this tour by another Australian, Glen Ella, and Jones' long-time friend, former team-mate and assistant when he was in charge of the Wallabies is hell-bent on changing perceptions in these parts.

Glen Ella, Jones' long-time friend, has joined the coaching team hell-bent on changing perceptions 'In Australia, they don't give any credit to the northern hemisphere,' he said. 'They think Super Rugby is much better than the Six Nations. While some of that could be true it's up to us to prove that it's not. The perception here is that the game in Europe is more structured and we want to prove that wrong. 'These England players are good, they've got great skills. You need to change but it's not a case of snapping your fingers and tomorrow we've got a backline capable of playing the way Australia does. 'I'm just helping the guys along, giving them some hints, having a look at their running lines and adjusting them as I see fit. 'The whole squad is competent and it's up to us to prove that they're not just the best team in the northern hemisphere but can compete with the southern hemisphere.'

– Entry was posted on June 9th, 2016 by James Haskell
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