Vunipola says Itoje is a future Sarries captain
While Maro Itoje may have been gaining the plaudits this season, there is no danger of it going to his head according to teammate Billy Vunipola, who believes the second-rower has all the credentials to be a future Saracens captain.
The 20-year-old has picked up two trophies so far this season, skippering Sarries to the A League and LV= Cup titles.
There could yet be more silverware with the first team in the mix for the Premiership title too, while Itoje himself has been shortlisted for the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award.
He is up against Exeter Chiefs duo Jack Nowell and Henry Slade as well Harlequins’ Jack Clifford and Elliot Daly of Wasps, with the gong set to be presented on Wednesday.
But Vunipola, who himself won the award last year, believes Itoje – a Junior World Cup winning captain with England – has certainly led by example this year.
“I think Maro has got a very good chance of winning the Discovery of the Season award,” he said.
“Everything he touches this season seems to turn to gold but he can carry it off. He is a very humble guy despite his age.
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“He just goes about his business and doesn’t let anything bother him. I’d say his sheer determination is his biggest strength.
“He doesn’t shy away from anything and the way he has led by example this year has been great.
“One thing that Saracens will do is put faith in their younger players. They’ve backed him with the captaincy in the A-league and LV=Cup and he has thrived with it.
“Long may he continue like that. I definitely see him as a future Saracens captain, although only after me!”
Vunipola could also be pocketing individual silverware this week after seeing himself nominated for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the season award.
The five-man shortlist includes Daly and his Wasps teammate Nathan Hughes and Bath pair George Ford and Jonathan Joseph.
However, Vunipola insists team success rather than individual glory is what drives him on.
“To be honest individual awards are not really my main target. I just try and work hard each week and just play as if it’s my last game,” he added.
“I’m honoured to be mix, if I win it then great, but if not then so be it. I’m just happy to have been in the team and done my bit for the club.”
Land Rover is recruiting all 96 Rugby World Cup 2015 official mascots as part of ‘We Deal In Real’, Land Rover’s Rugby World Cup 2015 sponsorship campaign which will champion the people that are the heart and soul of the game by putting grassroots clubs on the global stage. www.landrover.co.uk/mascots @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal