Rugby Union: Saracens lock Nick Isiekwe set for the top after impressive Premiership debut at Northampton Saints
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Young second-row looks to be latest in long line of impressive talents to graduate from Sarries’ academy
Saracens have a long and proud history of producing some of the game’s greatest players — and that looks set to be the case in Nick Isiekwe.
The second-row made his Premiership debut alongside the long-awaited return of George Kruis in the last-minute smash-and-grab 27-25 victory over Northampton Saints in Milton Keynes.
Having already featured for the Hendon-based club in this season’s Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign, it’s surprising that Isiekwe has only just been handed his first start in the league this term.
Indeed, with Maro Itoje being rested ahead of the trip to Dublin to face Munster in the European Champions Cup semi-final, it provided an opportunity for Isiekwe to show his worth — seen so often during England’s under-20’s Six Nations campaign.
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Despite an under-par performance from the reigning champions in the first half, Isiekwe went about his business with gusto — common amongst the second rows in the Saracens ranks.
The 19-year old looked a seasoned regular — comfortably adept in providing a strong and reliable defence. Isiekwe’s composure at the lineout and ball-carrying capabilities showed glimpses of a younger Maro Itoje.
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Even at 22-years-old, Itoje is quickly becoming the master to the apprentice of Isiekwe, learning his trade at the top level.
Isiekwe is undoubtedly in an environment to learn from the best. Alongside Itoje, Kruis and Jim Hamilton are experienced professionals who know what it takes to perform consistently week in week out — both domestically and internationally.
The return of Australian Will Skelton to the squad will further Isiekwe’s development into a top class second-row. His recent performances in an England shirt as well as for Saracens in the Anglo-Welsh cup underline the direction he is heading.
Internationally, Isiekwe will undoubtedly play a part in this year’s under-20’s World Rugby Championship in Georgia. The lock forward will be pivotal to England defending the crown they won in 2016.
A Six Nations Grand Alam win will have provided the best possible preparation ahead of the tournament that begins in June. Isiekwe and co will be full of confidence and have the advantage of utilising their domestic experience to retain the title.