Saracens star Itoje savours ‘surreal’ year - and now he’s focused on World Cup

Saracens' Maro Itoje in action against Northampton Saints in the Premiership semi-final

Saracens' Maro Itoje in action against Northampton Saints in the Premiership semi-final - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Saracens’ Maro Itoje is savouring a “surreal” 12 months and the best year of his life after winning the Premiership title and being selected in England’s World Cup training squad.

Itoje is only 20 years old but, having captained his country to victory at the Junior World Championship in June 2014, he has finished the latest season with a Premiership winner’s medal after Sarries’ victory over Bath at Twickenham on Saturday.

Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Chris Wyles touched down in a devastating first-half display to secure a commanding 25-3 lead at the break, and the Hendon club won 28-16 in the end to become English champions for a second time.

“The last 12 months have been surreal,” said Itoje. “Going from the Junior World Cup to this has just been fantastic. It has probably been the best year of my life so far.

“It was amazing, definitely one of the highlights of my career so far. We were in a strong position in the first half. Our game-plan was executed very well by the boys. We put some pressure on them and we made try-scoring opportunities through our defence.

“We tried to do the same thing in the second half, but Bath are a good team. They have talented individuals in the likes of George Ford, Kyle Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph.

“When you have those kind of players in your team you are going to make breaks, you are going to do some damage, and they definitely did some damage in the second half, but I’m happy that we were able to see it through.

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“We’ve always had the belief. There were setbacks along the way, but we always believed in our ability.”

Itoje’s domestic success has been combined with international recognition and, two and a half weeks from now, he will report for England training duty and a summer of intense preparation before head coach Stuart Lancaster announces his final 31-man World Cup squad.

“The motivation is to play for England,” said Itoje. “That is definitely a goal, and that will be a driving force behind the way I train and the way I conduct myself.

“I am really chuffed to be in the squad, and I just want to make the most of my opportunity. You don’t get these kind of opportunities every day, so I want to go in and just try to make the most of it.”

The versatile Itoje can operate as a lock and blindside flanker, and he said: “I enjoy playing in both.

“I think it depends on how the coach wants to have the make-up of the forwards, depending on how they see forward play. Maybe some coaches see me as a second-row, and some coaches as a six. I am comfortable playing in both positions. I have no real preference.”