Apr 14, 2015
Maro Itoje on his journey so far
Maro Itoje has extended his stay at Saracens by signing a long-term deal with the club. The 20 year-old lock forward has another Saracens academy product that has gone onto make an impact in the club’s senior side.
Following the footsteps of players such as Alex Goode, Owen Farrell, Jamie George, George Kruis, Will Fraser and Jackson Wray, news of Itoje’s extension is another shot in the arm for the north Londoner’s academy set-up.
Many have been tipping Itoje for a bright future since his impressive Premiership debut in performance that defied his tender years away to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in 2014.
Itoje went on to whet the appetite of many Saracens fans and rugby observes alike with his performances in the Junior World Championships at the heart of England’s win in New Zealand, and his mature and composed display in the white of the England Saxons earlier this year.
The son of Nigerian parents who moved to London after their marriage in their homeland, Itoje didn’t pick up a rugby ball until he started studying in Hertfordshire. Speaking to Maro now, one wouldn’t expect his tales of a shy, and nervous teenager who first attended a Saracens regional training camp as a lanky 14-year-old. Itoje has put his adolescent lack of confidence way behind him, as he looks to blaze a trail for both club and country.
Itoje; “I went to a school in north London in my formative years, then I attended St Georges in Harpenden when I was 11. I spent five years there, and it was at St George’s where I first started to play rugby before moving on to Harrow at 16.
“I started at Saracens at the age of 14. I remember my first day very well. I was extremely nervous. I was a really nervous player, in fact I was pretty nervous about anything back then, so going into to train with the EPDG at U14s was pretty daunting. I remember all the players rocking into the club and I was thinking that I was just this lanky 14 year-old in the background just trying to find his way into rugby. It was a good experience. The more and more I attended the sessions the more I grew as a player, and as an individual – slowly but surely I came out of my shell. As a result, I was a lot less anxious going into games, but that happens - I suppose most kids go through something similar.”
Itoje’s talent was plain to see. Athletic, physical, with an insatiable curiosity to continue to improve as a player and as a person. Now very much part of the Saracens set-up Itoje was destined to represent his country at age group level. Unsurprisingly he did, and it was with the England U20s and England Saxons, it was at U20s where Itoje first made a first impression on English rugby’s consciousness.
“Last year was really good year for me,” said Itoje. "When I look back on what I’ve achieved so far, I’m happy in the respect that I think I’ve played well throughout the age ranges and I’m happy I’m a great place in Saracens. I’m happy, but not content.”
"Saracens are a great club who have treated me unbelievably well since I joined at the age of 14. The club feels like home, and I’m really excited to be spending the next couple of years here.
“The club is incredibly ambitious and they have been competing at the highest level for some time. As a player you want to be playing in the big games and hopefully if I can keep improving I will be involved in more and more of them."