Maro Itoje: England and Saracens forward wants to be 'a complete player'

Maro Itoje (far right) appeared alongside England team-mates George Kruis, Mike Brown and captain Dylan Hartley at the launch of the new England Rugby shirt
Maro Itoje (far right) and team-mates showed off the new England Rugby shirt this week

England forward Maro Itoje says he is aiming to become a "complete player", and insists there is plenty of room for improvement.

Itoje, 21, has had a sensational 2016 so far, winning the double with club Saracens as well as a Grand Slam and a whitewash of Australia with England.

Despite the "special" season, he admits "many aspects" of his own game can be developed further.

"I don't know many players who peak at 21," he told BBC Sport.

"I want to get stronger, faster, and fitter. I want to try and be as complete a player as possible."

A season for the memory bank

As well as winning silverware with both club and country last season, Itoje only lost one match - against Harlequins in January - and astonishingly has not lost a game he has started since May 2015.

"Last season was pretty special and I was fortunate enough to do it with some pretty good people as well, which made it even more enjoyable," he said.

"Last year is one that will go in the memory bank, but now that it's over it's quite interesting how quickly your mind shifts towards the next goals you want to achieve.

"Now it's done, we are looking forward."

With nine victories out of nine so far this calendar year, England can go unbeaten in 2016 if they avoid defeat in the autumn series.

And next summer, there is the prospect of a British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand to look forward to.

The lion, rugby and political books

Although widely tipped to feature on the Lions tour, Itoje is trying to follow the advice of England captain Dylan Hartley and not to get carried away.

"I'm not really looking that far ahead - it's important to focus on the here and now," Itoje said.

"I want to get in the best possible shape I can in pre-season and start the season well, to a higher quality than last season."

Away from rugby, Itoje has one more year left of a politics degree at the School of Oriental and African and Studies.

In May, not only was he helping Saracens to European and domestic success, he was was also juggling end-of-semester exams.

"I did all right, I passed my exams, and I'm on a 2:1 at the moment," he said.

"Hopefully I can push on a little bit more, get a little bit better there, but it's going OK so far."

And Itoje says balancing rugby with his ongoing studies will remain a priority in the coming months as Sarries start their Premiership defence at home to Worcester on Saturday, 3 September.

"I will try and keep both pathways going upwards, and we'll see what happens," he said. "Rugby is an important part of my life, but so are my academic endeavours."

Top Stories