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Itoje could switch to flanker for England

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Maro Itoje's openside flanker credentials have received a strong endorsement on the day the England rugby team's options in the position dwindled.

The possibility of lock Itoje and Chris Robshaw packing down either side of Billy Vunipola for the visit of South Africa next month, thereby retaining the back-row that finished the third Test against Australia in June, has been raised by Eddie Jones.

The English face South Africa, Fiji, and Argentina next month before taking on Australia on December 3 at Twickenham.

England's alternatives are the uncapped Sam Jones and Mike Williams, but the former could soon be ruled out of contention after leaving the squad's training camp in Brighton on Tuesday with an ankle injury.

Jones has returned to Wasps where the extent of the damage will be assessed, but director of rugby Dai Young is braced for the worst.

Moving Itoje from lock to No.7 appears the most likely solution to the puzzle of how to replace James Haskell, who will miss all four autumn Tests because of foot surgery, and it is a move that has the backing of George Kruis.

Kruis has played in the second row alongside Itoje throughout the 21-year-old's brief Saracens and England careers and has seen enough to believe he would make a success of the positional switch.

"Maro has got the work rate and he's very physical. There's not much he doesn't have to be honest. If he wanted to play fly-half he probably could," Kruis said.

"He's a very talented player and if it benefits the team to have him there, then that's the right position for him

"At Saracens he's played six a few times. Eddie obviously has a plan of what he wants and if it's right for the team, that will be the case."

Jones is seeking a like for like replacement for Haskell after abandoning his search for an openside in the traditional mould.

"At seven we're looking for a destructive defensive player, not your traditional seven player because at the moment we don't have that in England," Jones said on Friday.

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