Jones: ‘Itoje could be world class’

Maro Itoje might be on the verge of his first Test start but England head coach Eddie Jones says he won't be rushing him in front of the media on a daily basis.

The Saracens lock will line up alongside his club-mate George Kruis against Ireland on Saturday.

Itoje has been earmarked as a future England captain and regular in the pack ever since he guided the U20s to the Junior World Championship title.

Jones' preference to not overly expose Itoje to the media highlights how important he regards the 21-year-old's development to be for England in the long run.

“I want him to be a great rugby player and I have a duty of care towards him. I want this kid to play 70 or 80 Tests," Jones told reporters.

"He’s good enough to do that but I want him to earn his stripes.

"When he’s played a massive game for England – when he’s won us a significant Test match as well as all his lineouts – I’ll let you talk to him all week from Monday to Friday.

"He doesn’t deserve media exposure right now. Why? Because he’s done nothing.”

That being said, Jones did go as far as to compare Itoje to South Africa's outstanding second-row Eben Etzebeth, suggesting that with the right development Itoje could also one day be world class.

Jones explained: “The best left-hand side lock in the game is Etzebeth, but Maro has better jumping skills and if he can develop the same mongrel in his carrying and tackling, he’ll be world class."