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Eddie Jones says he saved Marcus Smith from wasting his talent, maintains Maro Itoje will not be a future England captain


Eddie Jones insists Maro Itoje is unlikely to be England captain under his leadership, while claiming he saved Marcus Smith from wasting his potential.

The Australian is currently reveling in the success of a hugely successful Fall Nations Series, where England won all three games and beat Australia and South Africa at Twickenham.

Jones sent Itoje to acting lessons to help him develop off the pitch
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With Smith at 10 and staunch Itoje dominating in defense, England appear to be an extremely stable team as they prepare for the World Cup in 2023 – but still with so much room for improvement.

Owen Farrell may have missed the win over the Springboks due to injury, with Jones opting to use Courtney Lawes in an unknown leadership role.

The decision not to choose buckwheat lock Itoje instead, who was touted for the captain of the British and Irish Lions this summer, has baffled some and the head coach has since clarified the decision.

Jones said in his new book, ‘Excerpts from Leadership: Lessons from my Rugby Life ‘as transcribed by The Times: “When Maro Itoje burst onto the scene, you could have come from Mars and still be able to say he was going to be a special player. You didn’t need in-depth rugby knowledge or forethought to predict him for an exceptional career if he stayed on track.

Eddie Jones says he saved Marcus Smith from wasting his talent, maintains Maro Itoje will not be a future England captain
The Saracens’ second rower is a force on the pitch, but perhaps lacks a presence outside
AFP

“But they’re also the most remarkable players that you have to deal with carefully from the start. He has developed very well since I gave him his debut as a substitute against Italy in 2016. Maro has a good head on his shoulders and he’s not getting too far ahead of himself. I think the way we dealt with him early in his international career helped establish those good habits a bit. We want these amazing players to slowly rise so that they end up playing a huge amount of test matches.

“Maro himself needed, more than anyone, to understand the value of patience. He needed to trust us. I think we helped him do it because he quickly realized we cared about him. He’s an important player for us, but he also has a responsibility to his family and to himself. It is vital that he feels that he can achieve all of his personal goals while realizing that the best way to achieve them is to apply for the cause of the team. If the team flies, Maro Itoje will too.

“There have been many calls for him to be named captain of the British and Irish Lions in South Africa in 2021. Alun Wyn Jones got the job with good reason. It makes sense to me. I might be wrong, but I’m not sure Maro is a future English captain. He’s going to be one of the great players, but Maro is very withdrawn.

Although it took longer than expected, Itoje was selected alongside the harlequins’ irrepressible Marcus Smith. Yet despite his undoubted and superstar potential, Jones has admitted he needs to coax that on the 22-year-old.

Eddie Jones says he saved Marcus Smith from wasting his talent, maintains Maro Itoje will not be a future England captain
Smith has all the potential to become a world-class opening half
AFP

“I saw him play as a schoolboy,” Jones added. “At the 2015 World Cup, when I was coaching Japan in England, I went to see them play a game at Brighton College because everyone was saying he was going to be the next best thing. I left out of curiosity, as a coach, and not because I had connections with England at the time. I was impressed because he certainly had a great skill set.

“But somewhere down the line he had lost it. I don’t have to demolish the story of him as the next big star in English rugby. Some people in the English media would like him to take on that role, but my job is to make sure Marcus doesn’t believe this story because it’s written by other people. I want him to believe in his own story. I want him to write his own story. When the first lockdown happened in 2020, I called him so we could have a good conversation. I’ve been watching him for a while because I think he has real potential. But I didn’t know if Marcus wanted to be the best he could be. I wondered if he would be happy to be a nice Harlequins player, to talk about England in glowing terms, without really testing the limits of his abilities or his character.

“I had been thinking this for over a year when I called him in April 2020. We had a pretty direct conversation about the state of his game. I suggested he needed to find his own identity. I wanted him to describe this player identity to me on a piece of paper. He did and sent it to me.

Eddie Jones says he saved Marcus Smith from wasting his talent, maintains Maro Itoje will not be a future England captain
The 22-year-old has hit 12/12 off the tee in this series, including points winners against South Africa
AFP

“Since then, we have continued this conversation. He had identified the strengths he had exhibited for the first time as a schoolboy. How could he use those strengths again at the elite level? What is his role in the team? What did he have to do, especially as number 10, to develop? These are the three areas we have tried to explore. I asked him to fill in these answers and gave him a little feedback.

“Marcus will probably not be at his best until his late twenties. So we have to help him through this emotional journey and remind him of the journeys made by other big numbers 10. When Dan Carter was- he at his best? At his last World Cup in 2015. Is Beauden Barrett a fully mature 10? No. He’s a great player, but the best is yet to come for him. You have to allow them to fail, you have to give them time to mature.

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