Maro Itoje senses historic series win in South Africa

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Maro Itoje senses that England are ready to make history as they target a first series win in South Africa.

Eddie Jones’ men enter Saturday’s first Test at Ellis Park on the back of four successive defeats but Itoje insists they are ready to upset the Springboks, who have been installed as favourites to win the Johannesburg opener.

“We have an incredible challenge ahead of us, but while I’ve only been in camp since Tuesday, you quickly get the feeling that something big is about to happen,” Itoje said.

“You can tell that by the way the coaches are speaking, the way my team-mates are speaking and training, the application. It’s all looking good and we’re really excited.

“We know we’re a good team, with very good coaches. I believe if we play our style of rugby to the best of our ability, then on our day most teams will struggle against us.

“That’s the mindset we will take out there as we look to leave our imprint on this tour.

“The first Test is very important, because we need to start as we mean to go on. It sets the foundation for the series.”

Itoje forms part of Saracens’ England contingent who enter the series buoyed by reclaiming the Aviva Premiership title last weekend.

Also among that group is Owen Farrell, the playmaker appointed tour captain while Dylan Hartley recovers from concussion.

“I think Owen plays better when he’s captain. He speaks well, but I think he speaks better as captain. He has a holistic approach to the game,” Itoje said.

“I haven’t met many, if any smarter rugby players than him. I know for a fact, having played under him before, that he is going to do very well in the role.

“He pushes the standards, which is probably why Eddie has put him in that role.”

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