Eddie Jones insists England have the resources to cover for the loss of Maro Itoje as a cloud hangs over the Saracens lock’s participation in the rest of the Guinness Six Nations.
Itoje suffered suspected knee ligament damage in the 54th minute of Saturday’s 32-20 victory over Ireland in Dublin.
A scan will reveal the extent of the damage with an update expected tomorrow morning, but England will be praying their Lions talisman has escaped serious damage.
Itoje was an integral part of a dominant pack performance until he limped off and is a player they dare not lose as the countdown to the World Cup continues. Lessening any potential blow, however, is that England are well stocked for second rows, with Wasps captain Joe Launchbury unable to even make the bench at the Aviva Stadium.
“Maro’s going to be the best lock in the world so it’s a big loss, but we’ve got good depth,” Jones said.
“We’ve got Joe Launchbury ready to come back in and you saw Courtney Lawes come off the bench for us.”
Driving England on in the finest performance of Jones’ 36 Tests at the helm was the return from injury of the rampaging Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, and centre Manu Tuilagi. All three are of Pacific island descent and their power in the carry overwhelmed Ireland. Most effective of all was the unstoppable Mako.
“We had a few top players out there — they all seem to come from one part of the world, so we shopped pretty well. We definitely went to Waitrose and not Lidl!” Jones said.
“I’d like to get Billy fit enough to play at inside centre. Imagine him at 12 and Manu at 13!
“What Mako Vunipola did….he’s 125kgs so that’s a big guy, big enough to be a sumo wrestler. He’s making 23 tackles, carrying the ball 10 times, he’s scrummaging and lifting in the lineout.
“The intensity is such now that you’ve got to work out when you’re going to peak and when you want to take it off a bit. But now we have that ability to dent the line and that creates space, which makes it far easier.
"When you have to fiddle around to dent the line it’s much harder.”