TOP BAR - Fixtures

Itoje hoping to nail down Saracens starting spot

Maro Itoje will make his fourth consecutive Aviva Premiership Rugby start when Saracens head north to take on Wasps this weekend and the 20-year-old lock hopes he is now in the first team to stay.

It has been a gradual introduction to the Sarries first XV for Itoje, captaining the Saracens Storm side that won the Aviva A-League in January as well as in the LV= Cup where they have a semi-final next week.

But after an effervescent showing on his England Saxons debut earlier this year, and the likes of George Kruis and Jim Hamilton absent on international duty during the Six Nations, Itoje has graduated from promising bench cameos to first XV regular.

He will pack down at blindside flanker rather than his usual lock position for Sarries on Sunday at the Ricoh Arena but with six rounds to go in the race for the Aviva Premiership Rugby top four and the small matter of a European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final on the horizon, Itoje is hoping he can stick around in the first team.

“This has been something I have been building towards for quite a while, getting that consistent game time is what I want and it has been a good challenge,” he said.

“Leading up to these three starts I had made, five or six Premiership appearances off the bench.

“Being in and around the first team and getting to play games off the bench meant that by the time my first start game it had been a gradual process and I felt ready.

“I am really happy to have got this opportunity to play quite a lot and hopefully this continues.

“I am really enjoying my rugby, Sarries are a great club and I want to be involved in the big games, Wembley coming up and then the crunch games at the end of the season, those are the games you want to play in.

“I’m not really sure (if there is a plan), I am just taking it week by week and we will see how it unfolds, but I will always put my hand up to be involved in those games.”

Last week Itoje claimed the man-of-the-match award for his star turn in a narrow victory over Newcastle Falcons.

But with Wasps just behind second-placed Saracens in the standings, Itoje knows that he and his teammates will need to find another level against a side that are unbeaten in the league at their new Coventry home.

“Newcastle are a good side with some quality individuals, we really had to battle hard to get the win on the weekend in what was a very tough game but we were very pleased to see it through,” he added. 

“Wasps are a top team with quality players in every position, they play some really good rugby so we will have to be right at the top of our game to compete.

“They are undefeated at the Ricoh Arena as well so it will be a big test if we want to come away with a win.

“They have a good set piece , their scrum and lineout are very strong so we will be working hard to disrupt it and hopefully we can come away with the win.”

Tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final 2015 are now on sale. To snap one up click here – www.tickethour.co.uk/premierrugby

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