Gatland hails Itoje's 'best game' in Lions' first Test win

By Sports Desk July 28, 2021

Warren Gatland felt Maro Itoje’s outstanding display in the British and Irish Lions’ victory over South Africa last weekend was the best he has seen from the back-row.

Itoje was named man of the match after playing a huge part in the Lions overturning a half-time deficit to win the first Test at Cape Town Stadium 22-17.

The 26-year-old England lock was dominant at the breakdown against the world champions and came up with a game-high three turnovers.

"To me that’s probably the best game I’ve seen him play in any sort of jersey," said Gatland.

"He has been guilty in the past of giving away penalties and probably pushing the limits but I thought we saw an incredibly mature performance last weekend."

 

Gatland was impressed with Itoje's discipline in an attritional battle.

"I thought it was an excellent performance; I made a joke on Monday that it was the first time in about 360-odd games that Maro Itoje hadn't given away a penalty," Gatland added.

"I thought his decision making around the game in terms of when he went for things, when he decided to leave things alone, I kind of felt in the past he's chased lost causes and gone after things he didn't need to do and probably wasted a lot of energy.

"But I thought on Saturday his decision making about when to go after something, counter-ruck at the breakdown and the line-out stuff, was actually outstanding."

The Lions have made three changes for the second Test on Saturday, bringing in scrum-half Conor Murray, Mako Vunipola and debutant Chris Harris.

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