Test Series

Wallabies defence coach impressed by Itoje

Australia defence coach Nathan Grey has been impressed with the manner in which Maro Itoje has made his mark in the England side ahead of the first Test in Brisbane on Saturday.

Itoje was earmarked as one for the future by Eddie Jones after the Australian head coach replaced Stuart Lancaster last year, but the 21-year-old started three of England's five games in their Six Nations Grand-Slam triumph after starring on his debut off the bench against Italy.

The powerful, athletic Itoje is reportedly set to move from lock to replace Chris Robshaw in the back row in the opening game of the three-match series against the Wallabies this weekend.

And Grey said Itoje's emergence has been noted by the Wallabies.

"The kid can play. He's got some game. He's got some good physical presence on the field and he's been consistent." said Grey.

"When you are stepping up to international level, that consistency is probably the hardest thing to maintain. I am sure Eddie and Paul [England defence coach Gustard] have got a lot of confidence in him and he's got a lot of confidence in himself. 

"It's impressive, what he's doing at his age. He performed at Under-20 and has stepped up. He's doing a good job."

Grey is also wary of the threat posed by New Zealand-born centre Ben Te'o, who could make his England debut at Suncorp Stadium.

"He's a great talent," Grey said. "He's been playing consistently well. He is a really good, strong ball-carrying centre, he is very good defensively and he's got a very good carry. 

"In terms of preparation for us, he's certainly at the sharp end of the queue in terms of making sure we are across his strengths and weaknesses."

Te'o was playing in the NRL two years ago and Grey feels that the rugby league convert's inexperience in union can be exploited by the Wallabies.

Asked about the England new boy's weaknesses, Grey, speaking at a media conference, added: "Just his time in the game. Taking that step up and playing at international level is a big step. 

"Everything gets tested at a higher level, you have less time and less space and your skills and execution under pressure are the hardest things to replicate. 

"But if gets the honour to be able to play for his country, I have no doubt he'll step up and perform to his best."