Maro Itoje urges England to address slow starts after Argentina defeat

Maro Itoje admits England must urgently address their habit of starting new campaigns with a defeat as they once again face the task of rebuilding from a position of weakness.

Argentina claimed only their second win at Twickenham on Sunday after ending a 10-Test losing run in the fixture with a 30-29 victory in the Autumn Nations Series opener.

It was deja vu for England, meanwhile, as they emulated the Six Nations and July tour of Australia by falling at the first hurdle – a trend that head coach Eddie Jones blames on a lack of preparation time.

Maro Itoje in action against Argentina on Sunday
Maro Itoje in action against Argentina on Sunday (David Davies/PA)

With their players scattered across the globe and some even in action on the previous weekend, the Pumas may raise an eyebrow at Jones’ claim, especially given the cohesion they displayed.

If the pattern continues into the World Cup next year England could be facing disaster and Itoje knows it cannot be allowed to continue.

“We have 11 clubs now and everyone is playing a different style of rugby, everyone has a different thought process,” Itoje said.

“We haven’t perhaps been so good at flicking the switch to England mode. And that’s something we need to get better at, because this is not something we want to embrace or continue any longer.

“One thing is being aware of it and we know that’s becoming a bit of a trend. We need to get back on England time, England mode and the England way of thinking a bit sooner, and create that teamship a bit sooner than we have sometimes.

“It can take a week or two to get going but we need to get going from the off. The group is tight and together off the field, but we need to translate that on to the field.

“No one’s going to be shouting at each other, or calling people out. It’s just being honest with each other about where we were good, where we were bad and where we need to improve. We all want to improve because we don’t want results like this.”

Japan are next up on Saturday before heavyweights New Zealand and South Africa swagger into the capital looking to claim statement wins ahead of the World Cup.

Jones’ England are back in the crosshairs of critics, most notably a disapproving Sir Clive Woodward, but the Australian head coach believes that will have a galvanising effect.

“We’re a team who responds really well to pressure, that’s the character of the team. It has been historically for England,” Jones said.

Jamie George is available to face Japan on Saturday
Jamie George is available to face Japan on Saturday (Mike Egerton/PA)

England have been lifted by the unexpected return to fitness of hooker Jamie George.

George was expected to miss the entire campaign after breaking two metatarsals on club duty for Saracens against Leicester on October 1, the initial prognosis a 10-to-12-week period of recovery.

But the Lions front row has been included in a 36-man training squad for Saturday’s visit of Japan to Twickenham with England confirming he is available for selection.

Back three reinforcements have also arrived with Tommy Freeman making a successful return from a foot injury for Northampton against Exeter on Friday, while Jonny May is available after recovering from an elbow problem.