Three years ago, on the 8th February 2013 to be precise, we profiled Maro Itoje as one of our ‘Ones to Watch’.
Now the second row is in the England squad and is a key member of the Saracens side, back then he was just a Harrow schoolboy hoping to make his way into the professional game.
As part of the profile, we asked him a few questions, looking back his answers make for interesting reading, particularly the player he most looked up to. Unfortunately with our website migration, the article itself was lost, but the questions and answers form Maro remained, here they are:
Fifteen Rugby to Maro Itoje, February 2013:
XV: Maro, who has had the biggest influence on you, rugby wise?
MI: A lot of people have helped me and had a big impact on my rugby career thus far they include the likes of Peter Walton, Richard Hill and Andy Bennett. But my academy coach Matt Davies has probably had the biggest influence on me so far, he’s been incredibly dedicated and I’m very grateful for all his efforts.
XV: What has been the highlight of your rugby career so far?
MI: Making my full Saracens debut at Allianz Park is definitely up there, playing with players I really look up to and admire like John Smit, Alex Goode and Mouritz Botha was a surreal experience.
XV: Which player(s) did you/do you particularly look up to?
MI: I look up to Steve Borthwick and appreciate the way Tom Croft, Victor Matfield & Radike Samo play.
No doubt he still looks up to Borthwick, who will of course be coaching him extensively in the England set up, while Victor Matfield will be an opponent now in Northampton Saints colours – the reference to Radike Samo perhaps reflects the age of the questions!
No doubt the career highlights reel has extended, though that debut no doubt still sits strongly in the memory. At the time of the interview Itoje had made two appearances for Saracens, in itself an incredible achievement for a schoolboy. He had played against Rotherham in a pre-season friendly, and against Cardiff Blues in the LV=Cup.
As part of our conversations with Maro at the time, we asked him to list his rugby achievements. Even then it was a long list, but what was notable even back then was how every team and every school warranted a mention in his book. None was deemed any less important just because a big one had come over the horizon, that warmth and leadership so evident now was just as evident then Here were his achievements at the time, in his own words:
Rugby achievements thus far (editor, February 2013):
St George’s Harpenden 1st XV 2010-11
Harpenden Rugby Club 2008-2011
Herts county team U14-16 (playing U16 a year early)
London and South East team U16 (playing a year early)
England U17 (2caps)
England U18 (7 caps)
On South Africa tour with England 18s named players player of the tour and coaches player of the tour
Named in the England BMW Performance Academy
Harrow 1st XV 2011-2013
Saracens academy (09-present)
Due to start professional contract with Saracens July this year (2013)
Made 2 appearances for the Saracens 1st team, 1 in Pre season coming off the bench against Rotherham and the second starting at 6 against Cardiff blues in the LV Cup at Allianz Park.
Of course now we can add to that list ten England U20 caps, a World Rugby U20 Championship, captaining Saracens Storm to A League victory last year, as well as captaining the Saracens 1st XV to LV=Cup victory, numerous Saracens 1st XV appearances, an England Saxons cap, being named in the wider England training squad prior to the World Cup, and now being named in the England Elite Player Squad for the 6 Nations.
It is a meteoric rise, and the man still finds time to study for a Politics degree!
Maro has long been destined to sit at the top of the rugby tree, now he is nearly there, and who would bet against a few Lions caps next year?
Even then, you suspect, he would still list Hertfordshire U14s in his list of rugby achievements.