Rugby: NZ-born Ethan Roots reflects on man-of-the-match performance in test debut for England

Ethan Roots couldn't make the First XV during his time at Auckland's Rosmini College, but has earned player-of-the-match honours in his test debut for England.

The former Māori All Black has delivered a statement performance in the Six Nations, powering the Roses to a 27-24 win over fast-starting Italy.

A long way from his home ground at Mairangi Bay, Roots donned the English jersey for the first time at Rome and the flanker proved crucial to the cause.

"It's pretty surreal," Roots said. "Words can't really describe it - it's special."

Ethan Roots carries the ball against Italy.
Ethan Roots carries the ball against Italy. Photo credit: Getty Images

Eligible through his Berkshire-born father, the loose forward dominated the breakdown for the entire 80 minutes, while his ballcarrying ability helped the English recover, after Italy took an early 10-point lead.

"Of course, you'd be nervous on your debut, especially here," he added.  

"We know the Italians are passionate. They never go away, so [I was] very nervous."

It's a remarkable turnaround from a forward who managed just a single Super Rugby game for the Crusaders, before making his mark in the European club scene for English side Exeter.

His efforts in Italy left a strong first impression on England coach Steve Borthwick.

"I've been impressed with him, ever since Richard Hill showed me that video a few months ago,"said Borthwick. 

"He's been terrific. I thought he was outstanding today."

Roots will try to keep that momentum going, when England return home to host Warren Gatland's Wales at Twickenham Stadium next weekend.