Maro Itoje: Eddie Jones sacking was like Boris Johnson's demise

Eddie Jones passes on instructions to Maro Itoje during England training - Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Eddie Jones passes on instructions to Maro Itoje during England training - Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Maro Itoje says England players “felt the mood change” before Eddie Jones’ sacking last November and compared the situation to the end of Boris Johnson's reign as Prime Minister.

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, the England lock – omnipresent under Jones – says he discovered the former head coach's fate "on the news" and that there had been a "shift" in the mood surrounding the 62-year-old's tenure.

"I think I just saw it on the news," Itoje said. "You could feel the mood change, especially in the newspapers. Kind of like how it felt when Boris Johnson or Liz Truss were coming to their end. It was that kind of shift.

"I'm very grateful to [Eddie]. He picked me 62 times. I don't think he ever dropped me. So I'm grateful for the opportunities. He pushed me. He had his moments with me, but ultimately I'm grateful for what he's done."

Jones was dismissed after his side's comprehensive loss to South Africa despite holding the highest win record of any England coach – 73 per cent. That figure stood at just 42 per cent in the 2022 calendar year, however, after six dismal defeats, one draw and five wins.

Steve Borthwick, the former Leicester head coach and England captain, was announced as the Australian's successor in December and Itoje believes that the team "needed change", although the Saracens star batted away any questions about the England captaincy.

"Things are going to change," Itoje said. "[Steve] will change the way we do things. And to be completely honest, we needed a change, because the last year wasn't what we expected of ourselves.

"So change is good, it's exciting. I've always said this team has an incredible amount of potential. It's now about us figuring out how to make that a reality."

Itoje, who has won 56 caps for England and another six for the British and Irish Lions across two tours, also cast his eye over the state of English rugby, with the Premiership desperate for further avenue streams after the demise of both Worcester and Wasps earlier this season.

"Rugby in the last six months has been on the floor, for a lot of reasons: Worcester almost going into the abyss; Wasps, a similar situation," Itoje said. "England will always be fine, but the club game needs the sport to grow, to have a bigger commercial revenue."

Read the full Maro Itoje interview from The Telegraph magazine