Rugby: Itoje impressed by England improvement

England's Maro Itoje appears dejected after the Quilter International match at Twickenham Stadium (p

England's Maro Itoje appears dejected after the Quilter International match at Twickenham Stadium (pic Mike Egerton/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

After going so close to claiming the prized scalp of world champions New Zealand, Saracens’ star Maro Itoje says England are looking forward to facing Japan at Twickenham next weekend, writes Ziad Chaudry.

The hosts were denied a match-winning try by flanker Sam Underhill four minutes from time as it was controversially ruled out after television replays showed that Courtney Lawes was judged to be narrowly offside.

Tries from Chris Ashton and co-captain Dylan Hartley saw England storm into a stunning 15-0 lead after 25 minutes before the mighty All Blacks rallied together and claimed a dramatic 16-15 victory at a rain drenched Twickenham.

But despite defeat, 24-year-old Camden-born Itoje believes England, who also had fellow Sarries Owen Farrell, Jamie George and George Kruis in the line-up, are moving in the right direction.

“I think we are moving towards the right direction,” he said. “Despite the loss we probably still improved our performance from the South Africa game last week.

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“Even off the pitch we are growing tighter and tighter together. We spent two and a half weeks together while the All Blacks had three months together so I think we are moving towards the right direction.

“All we’re focused on now is Japan and it’s a challenge were really looking forward to.”

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England continue their Quilter Autumn Internationals campaign against 2019 Rugby World Cup hosts Japan this Saturday at Twickenham.

Tickets are available at or you can catch all the action on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Main Event from 2pm.

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