McCall backs Itoje over Woodward claims


London (AFP)

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall has slammed claims from former England coach Clive Woodward that Maro Itoje is "out on his feet".

Woodward made the controversial remark after lacklustre England were condemned to a fifth-place finish in the Six Nations following Saturday's 24-15 defeat to Ireland.

The draining demands of the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand last year was used by Woodward to explain Itoje's dip in form, while Jones had identified "second season syndrome" as the source of the slump.

But McCall disagrees, pointing to the 23-year-old's limited workload this season -- including five weeks out with a fractured jaw -- to argue against Woodward.

"There are things that have been written about certain players that aren't all that accurate and aren't really based on any data," McCall said.

"Maro seems to be the one who has been highlighted as 'out on his feet' -- that's the quote I've seen.

"But Maro's playing record over the last 20 weeks is 10 games played, so that's 10 weekends when he hasn't played.

"There are games for us this year where he has been exceptional. Personally I thought he was fantastic against France, playing his best game of the Six Nations against them, and did well against Ireland.

"Some of the arguments don't stack up, I don't think."

Jones revealed at Twickenham on Saturday that he may rest some players who were involved in the Lions tour for the three-Test series against South Africa that looms in June.

McCall has already discussed the subject with the Australian.

"Eddie has given me a few thoughts on a few players for the summer tour, but those conversations should stay private -- he'll announce in due course who may or may not go," McCall said.