Lewis Moody backs Itoje for even more success

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 06: Maro Itoje of England makes a run during the 2014 Junior World Cha

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 06: Maro Itoje of England makes a run during the 2014 Junior World Championships match between England and Australia at QBE Stadium on June 6, 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images) - Credit: Getty Images

Saracens may have placed their faith in St George’s School’s Maro Itoje at an early age but the second row will more than pay them back in the years to come, according to World Cup winner Lewis Moody.

This time last year, 20-year-old Itoje, a former Old Albanian player, had just made his Aviva Premiership Rugby bow, in a thrilling 31-27 defeat to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.

Fast forward 12 months, and not only does Itoje have captaining England U20s to the Junior World Cup on his CV, but a 13 further Aviva Premiership appearances under his belt.

And that’s without even mentioning the two other trophies Itoje has lifted this season in the A League and LV= Cup after Saracens elected to make him their captain in both.

Such performances have seen him shortlisted for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award while the club made sure to reward the forward with a new long-term deal in April.

And its gestures such as that which Moody believes prove just how valuable an asset Itoje is.

“For such a young man, Maro is very impressive to watch. Saracens obviously think a lot of him having made him captain in the A-league and then the LV=Cup but they’ve shown before with people that they are not afraid to put people in if they are ready,” he said.

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“He seems to have really thrived this year and it’s been a great year already for him with helping his team to success in the LV= Cup and A-League.

“There are obviously still some little things he would like to work on in his game, but he’s really composed for his age and seems to deal well with pressure.

“There would certainly have been a lot of clubs interested in him so it’s great for Saracens that they managed to get him tied down to a long term deal earlier in the season. I’m sure a lot of the fans would have been happy to see that.”

The Land Rover Discovery of The Season award is designed to recognise the most impressive young players in the Aviva Premiership Rugby each season and reward them for their outstanding contribution to the competition.

The winner will follow in the footsteps of some special talents; previous winners have included Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi and Joe Launchbury, with Billy Vunipola claiming the prize last year.

But that is easier said than done with Itoje facing stiff competition with the list of nominees including Harlequins’ Jack Clifford, Wasps’ Elliot Daly as well as Exeter Chiefs duo Jack Nowell and Henry Slade.

And Moody admits he would be hard pressed to separate them if he was the one making the call.

“Billy Vunipola obviously won the Land Rover Discovery of the Season last season and Maro certainly has a good chance of repeating the success for Saracens,” he added.

“It’s a really tough one though as to who is going to win. I’d say Henry Slade or Maro Itoje would be up there and then Elliot Daly has been playing really well too, and so have the two Jacks.

“Jack Nowell certainly seems like he has been around for ages. They have all had great seasons so it’s a hard call.”

Land Rover ambassador Lewis Moody was commenting on the Land Rover Discovery of The Season award. The winner of this year’s award will be announced following the Premiership Rugby Awards on May 20th. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal