England duo Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum don’t want to be rested against Chile

By Sports Desk September 19, 2023

England’s second row giants Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum have told Steve Borthwick they do not want to be rested against Chile.

Borthwick is expected to overhaul his starting XV against the weakest opposition England will face in their World Cup group campaign, taking the opportunity to give some of his stars a breather.

Itoje and Chessum have started the last three Tests together, including the Pool D victories over Argentina and Japan, and are candidates to be given the weekend off given the tougher assignments that lie ahead.

But Itoje is eager to retain his place in the starting XV – even though Chile are placed 22nd in the global rankings.

“I always want to play. I want to put my hand up for selection, I want to play for England. If there is an opportunity to play, I want to play,” Itoje said.

“You can’t take these moments for granted, you never know when the last time is that you’re going to play for England. I want to get as many caps as possible so I definitely would want to play.

“Steve has the big plan and he has to look after the whole squad, not just individuals. He is the final decision maker.”

The challenge facing Borthwick is to ensure his key personnel are battle hardened for the quarter-finals, which England have all but reached after dispatching the Pumas and Brave Blossoms.

Yet the break week each team observes at different stages during the World Cup means that after Chile their next assignment is the final group game against Samoa on October 7.

Itoje could therefore go three weeks without a game if he is omitted from the team that will be named by Borthwick on Thursday.

“A three-week break is neither here nor there. If I play – great,” Itoje said.

“When you’re not playing you do way more fitness. The guys who haven’t been in the squad have been getting flogged – so that’s motivation enough to play,” Itoje said.

“If I’m not playing I’ll be getting flogged. I’d much rather play because I don’t want to get flogged!”

Chessum, Itoje’s partner in England’s first choice engine room, is is also looking to keep his place, although the Leicester lock has a stronger case for inclusion as he is on the comeback trail from a serious ankle injury.

“You want to hold your hand up to play at every opportunity possible,” Chessum said.

“I have not played a lot of rugby at all in the last six months so I want to keep playing.

“It is not up to me, it is up to the coaches so I will hold my hand up in training this week and it is up to them, the selection process.”

Chile are expected to be overrun in Lille on Saturday but Portugal and Uruguay have already demonstrated against Wales and France in this World Cup that the minnows can cause a scare.

The tournament’s last great upset was when Japan toppled Ireland four years ago and Chessum does not want England to be the next big-name scalp.

“If you sleepwalk into games or sleepwalk into anything in this World Cup you will get caught out and exposed,” he said.

“You have seen from the games last week that there is not a big disparity between the teams – the tier-two nations have taken some of the best teams right to the wire.

“We will be firing on all cylinders in training and on the job to take the game to Chile.”

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