Rugby Union


Maro Itoje is making international rugby look easy

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The poster boy of Eddie Jones' new-look England team, 21-year old Maro Itoje's career has well and truly taken off over the last couple of seasons.

Able to play both at lock and in the back-row, Itoje made his Premiership debut for Saracens against Leicester Tigers in the 2013-14 season and has developed at an almost alarming rate ever since.

His dynamism, defensive work-rate and lineout prowess have rendered the former Harrow schoolboy as one of the most highly regarded young forwards in world rugby - his Premiership tackle success rate of 98% in 26 appearances being particularly impressive.


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After narrowly missing out on a place at the 2015 World Cup under the old regime, Itoje has benefitted from the avant-garde approach adopted by new head coach Eddie Jones; who - including Itoje - has already handed four promising English talents their debuts in his first three matches in charge, as everyone involved with the side seeks to put last year's abysmal World Cup showing behind them.

Given his tender age, Itoje has amassed a wealth of experience and already has one Aviva Premiership and one Junior World Cup winners' medal to his name - the latter he gained as the captain of 2013's successful crop of young Englishmen.

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At 6'5" and weighing 255 lb, he provides a commanding presence on the pitch and has demonstrated on numerous occasions not only his ability to perform on the big stages, but also his natural leadership skills.

This hasn't gone unnoticed, with commentators and former players alike tipping him to become England's captain later in his career, including a certain Clive Woodward. Of course, international rugby at senior level is a massive step up from age-group level, and even the Premiership, but thus far Itoje has proven his worth.

On his full debut versus Ireland, his tireless work-rate caught the eye; he made 16 tackles - the most by an England player - as well as a turnover, to make him one of the game's top performers.

England v Ireland - RBS Six Nations

With three wins from three so far in this year's Six Nations, it looks as if things are looking up for English rugby. Although they are yet to provide us with a full 80-minute rugby masterclass, Jones' men are beginning to show that they can get a job done even when they're not at their best; perhaps exemplified best by their 40-9 disposal of Italy a couple of weeks ago, when despite a mediocre first- half showing they ended up comprehensive winners.

Certainly it is still early days and there remains a lot to prove - especially with a colossal clash versus Wales around the corner - but England fans have good reason to be hopeful and reclaim their pride in the red rose following a dire World Cup.

Whatever the fortunes of the current England team as they begin the four-year preparation process for the next World Cup, it is clear that Maro Itoje will have a big part to play in a young squad that is undoubtedly riddled with potential.

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IRB Rugby World Cup
England Rugby
Rugby Union
Ireland Rugby
Jonny Wilkinson
Six Nations

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