Itoje calls for a collective effort
As he prepares to make his second start for the British & Irish Lions, Maro Itoje firmly believes every member of Warren Gatland’s squad has a role to play in the tourists’ bid to clinch a series victory over New Zealand.
“To achieve something as a collective, you have to be a team man.”
Like he did against the Blues in Auckland, the Saracens ace will don the number four jersey when the Lions meet the Maori All Blacks at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday.
Itoje, the youngest member of the class of 2017 at 22-years-old, is relishing rubbing shoulders with the best of the best from Great Britain and Ireland but individual glory is far from his mind, and is urging his compatriots to adopt the same mindset.
“It takes a 23 to win a Test match, a game of rugby,” said Itoje, a two-time European Champions Cup winner with Saracens and a two-time Six Nations champion with England.
“It’s very rare the starting XV finish the match entirely, so subs always come on and it’s the role of everybody in the 23 to make an impact.
“No man is an island and a tree doesn’t make a forest, so the focus is always on the team.
“To achieve something as a collective, you have to be a team man.
“Obviously, you compete hard for your space but if you’re not in that space, you do all you can to help the guy in that space to achieve what he wants to do.”
This weekend’s clash has unofficially been dubbed the ‘fourth Test’ but Itoje’s appetite has been fully whetted by the prospect of facing off against the Maori.
The Lions lock said: “I’m looking forward to it. We’ve had a couple of good days training. So far we’ve got a decent hit out and I’m looking forward to the game.
“The good thing about this squad and the calibre of player here is that we quickly learn and review what has gone well and what hasn’t gone so well, and we try to fix that and move forward and ultimately try to get better because we need to get better if we want to get the results we want to.
“These are the type of challenges we enjoy. These are the type of challenges that are more fulfilling once we accomplish our goals.
“Whenever we play, the emphasis is always on winning.
“A good performance often leads to a victory, so our focus is always on the performance.
“We know the challenge ahead of us, we know it’s going to be tough, but we’ll be focused on getting that result.
“I feel we’re moving in the right direction. I feel as if we’re building good foundations.”