London - Maro Itoje has been told to take the fight to New
Zealand with his physical play even if it leads to punishment from the
Itoje gave away three penalties and was sin-binned in the
opening quarter of England's 12-11 victory over South Africa on Saturday.
But the Saracens star's bruising style proved essential as
England hit back to win in the second half at Twickenham.
The hero of the British and Irish Lions' victory in the
second Test against the All Blacks last year has been given license to continue
pushing the boundaries when England attempt to stun Steve Hansen's world
champions this weekend.
"Against South Africa he was physically outstanding and
the work he does in the set-piece is huge," England assistant coach Neal
Hatley said on Wednesday.
"In certain aspects of the game, he was playing as well
as he did in that breakout year when his club Saracens won everything and he was
on fire for the Lions.
"He's an attritional player. In Australia in 2016 he
was leading the charge and we asked him to lead that charge.
"We have lots of players doing it - Kyle Sinckler as
well - but we see Maro being able to do that because of his stature and because
that's the way he likes to play the game.
"He likes to be confrontational. He likes to get on the
front foot and if it's a strength, we will encourage him to keep pushing at it.
"If you ask people to play that way, there are
sometimes going to be penalties around that."
England co-captain Dylan Hartley views Itoje, who is set to
continue his second-row partnership with George Kruis, as a talisman for the
"Through his actions, he inspires people. Through his
energy, he motivates people," Northampton hooker Hartley said.
"He's the sort of player that doesn't just dip his toe
into the water - he bombs straight in and that is good to follow. He's growing
in that capacity and is a genuine leader.
"You've got to be on the right side of the ref, but
you've got to be on that line, pushing it, because you take every advantage
that you can get."
15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe
Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Richie Mo'unga, 23 Ryan Crotty