Itoje says Six Nations just the start for England

London (AFP) –


Maro Itoje has insisted England's Six Nations title success is just the start as they build towards their goal of winning the 2023 World Cup in France.

Almost a year to the day since they were beaten by South Africa in the World Cup final, Eddie Jones' men claimed boasting rights in the northern hemisphere's showcase tournament on points difference from France after a 34-5 win over Italy in Rome took them to the top of the table.

"We're only just getting started in terms of where we think we can go," Itoje told reporters on Sunday.

"We've won this tournament and have been reasonably successful in the past, but the exciting thing for us is where we can go and where we can take everything," he added ahead of the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup.

"Our win against Italy is the first time we've played together for a while. It wasn't the smoothest of games, but it's a great foundation for us to progress from."

England coach Jones has stressed how his side have a role to play in providing some moments of joy to sports fans as the country struggles with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Sport has the power to unite people, sport has the power to put a smile on people's faces, sport has the power just to lighten the mood a little bit when people are going through tough times," said Itoje.

"If us, as an England team, can do that, that's one of the greatest things we can do."

Itoje revived his youth rugby second-row partnership with Jonny Hill as the Exeter double-winner impressed on his Test debut, albeit he received a yellow-card for a dangerous head-high challenge.

Jones has backed Hill as the natural successor to George Kruis, who is calling time on his Test career with a move to Japanese club rugby.

"George is a great player. He left the jersey in a better place than when he picked it up," said Hill.

"He's a great line-out operator, he's good around the park and I have a lot of respect for him.

"But I don't want to be a George Kruis, I don't want to be a Geoff Parling. I want to be Jonny Hill -- the best version of myself -- and put a different twist on the shirt."