Second-row penalties against Wales were a failure in an otherwise consistent Six Nations campaign.
Maro Itoje is determined to change the perception of his way of playing while preserving the style of confrontation that has helped England to a 23-20 victory over France.
Itoje propelled for the late try that parted rivals in a captivating Guinness Six Nations clash at Twickenham on Saturday.
It was a cathartic performance for Itoje after he became the main culprit on an unruly afternoon in Cardiff, his five penalties contributing to a 40-24 loss to Wales which reduced the title defense of England to dust.
Against France, he only infringed once and with Eddie jones Claiming their championship star performer is being targeted by referees, the Lions second row agrees that adjustments need to be made.
âThere was a little bit of perception that came from my game and the way I play the game. I’m working hard to try to change that perception,â Itoje said.
âIf you give five penalties, the referees will hear the noise outside that says Maro Itoje is giving a lot of penalties. Everything has an influence.
âThe things people say, the things people think – they all affect the way the referees prepare for the game. At the moment, it is perception.
âI don’t want to lose any of the good things I do because I know what I can bring to a team and how I can influence a game. But, at the same time, I want to change this perception.
âIt’s just about making better decisions. I need to better understand and read the referees. Make better decisions when I’m on the pitch.
âObviously I never want to lose my bite, I never want to lose my edge. I believe that my mentality makes me the player that I am. I always want to be as confrontational as possible.
âI don’t want to lose my key characteristics because if I do that then you might as well play someone else because that’s what makes me me.
âMy attitude makes me the player that I am. At the same time, I have to thread this needle more efficiently. I didn’t give as much against France, so it’s a step in the right direction.
Itoje’s third try in 47 Tests was marked with four minutes to spare as England, down 20-16, showed resilience to save their Six Nations from disaster with a trip to Ireland ahead.
âMy tests are not really too good. It was a pick and go and I don’t think there was much to scream and scream, but we’re happy with it nonetheless, âItoje said.
âI don’t really score a lot, it’s once in a blue moon, so I’ll take it as it looks. A trial is a trial. They are all the same.
âThis performance was not perfect. There was still a lot of things we can improve on and be a little more specific.
“It’s definitely not the gold standard, but I think we were better and that was a bit more of what we want to be as a team.”