Maro Itoje. A name once unheard of, now exalted to the heavens. Regular for England and Saracens, winner in every game out of the twenty he has started this season, Six Nations Grand Slam winner, European Cup winner, Premiership winner, EPCR European Player of the Year and winner of the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award at just 21 years old.
What’s more this may not be the end to the string of accolades which have come his way. Currently on tour to Australia expect him to win at least one Man of the Match award and with England in fine form after trashing Wales a first series win in Australia beckons.
Indeed having won the Premiership final, Maro has yet another silvery medal to wear around his neck. Saracens and England team-mate Alex Goode, in a recent interview with the Evening Standard, remarked that Itoje’s house was “like a scene from a Harry Potter film with all of these silver cups multiplying and appearing to come out of the door”.
Of course, Itoje’s home has not been the only place to experience Maro’s midas touch. He has been quite phenomenal on the rugby pitch; monumental for both club and country.
Able to put himself in remarkable positions for a man of his height both in the lineout and in the act of the stealing the ball, as well as being an immensely strong ball carrier and a tackler capable of stopping any incoming traffic, he is and always has been an invaluable asset to whatever side he finds himself playing in. One need only witness his Man of the Match displays against Wasps and Racing in the European Cup for evidence of this incredibly well rounded rugby talent.
Moreover having represented his country at shot-put and basketball, it is unquestionable that he uses every inch of his 6ft 5in 18st 4lb frame to its full ability. The most athletic second rower in the world? Undoubtedly.
Yet what is most remarkable, is that despite his meteoric rise to become the premier lock in European if not World Rugby, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph he highlighted that he does not think that he has hit his prime. Quite how he would have to perform to better his current form is beyond us. Yet it this attitude that will excite Saracens fans, England fans and indeed Rugby fans all over the globe for years to come.
However it is an attitude which also gives a great insight into the man himself. He has not allowed himself to get carried away with his performances and refuses to read much about what is said about him in the press.
Nonetheless it also reveals Itoje’s confidence in his own abilities and his desire to do better; critical if he is to maintain and improve upon his game. Indeed it is surely this mammoth competiveness and desire that has seen him reach the summit of world rugby at such a precocious age. Let us not forget that he is also juggling a politics degree at Soas. Intelligence and an awareness of world affairs are clearly two further strings to his bow. Read his interview with the Guardian’s Donald Mcrae to get an insight into his academic musings.
Itoje, despite the accolades, is a man on a mission. Catch him doing his thing this Saturday at Twickenham.
By Charles Dew
(The Guardian, Rugby World, Wikimedia Commons, YouTube)