Rugby World Cup - Maro Itoje channels Ric Flair as England bid to dethrone All Blacks

Making a splash: Torrential rain soaked the pitch at International Stadium Yokohama yesterday as Joe Cokanasiga leads England onto the pitch for the Captain's Run ahead of today's World Cup semi-final. (Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Making a splash: Torrential rain soaked the pitch at International Stadium Yokohama yesterday as Joe Cokanasiga leads England onto the pitch for the Captain's Run ahead of today's World Cup semi-final. (Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Maro Itoje senses that England are poised to stun New Zealand in today’s World Cup semi-final by declaring: “We’re going to get them”.

The All Blacks are odds-on favourites to lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for a third successive time but at International Stadium Yokohama they face a clash between the sport’s two highest-ranked teams.

England captain Owen Farrell talks to the team during the Captain's Run at International Stadium  Yokohama. (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

England captain Owen Farrell talks to the team during the Captain's Run at International Stadium Yokohama. (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

England are bullish over their chances knowing that coach Eddie Jones masterminded five wins over New Zealand when Australia coach, while 10 of the starting XV have tasted victory against the world champions. For six of them that triumph was savoured on the Lions tour two years ago in the shape of a 24-21 win in Wellington – a match in which Itoje produced one of his most stellar performances.

“The whole touring experience of 2017 is a reference,” said the Saracens second row.

“I learned a lot about New Zealand, their culture, how they play the game, how good and clinical they are and how to get them. This weekend feels like the time we’re going to get them.

“Quite honestly, even if I hadn’t experienced beating them, I’d still have that same confidence.

As Ric Flair said - ‘to be the man you’ve got to beat the man’.

Maro Itoje

“My confidence doesn’t derive from the 2017 Lions tour. Different team and different circumstances. Their team has changed a lot too.

“My confidence derives from the personnel we have, the confidence we have, the other players we have and what we are capable of.

“I have never ever gone into a game thinking that a team is going to beat me. The way I see New Zealand, I respect what they have done.

“They are a very good team and have the capacity to do some very dangerous things, but I still believe that if we play our best rugby, we will win.”

If England are to progress to the final they must overcome the sport’s greatest challenge, prompting Itoje to recall a line from 16-time WWE world champion Ric Flair.

“As Ric Flair said – ‘to be the man you’ve got to beat the man’,” said Itoje.

Dave Craven verdict: Page 7