TOP BAR - Fixtures

Itoje thrilled as dream week continues with Land Rover Discovery of the Season award

Itoje thrilled as dream week continues with Land Rover Discovery of the Season award

It has been a week to remember for Maro Itoje as just four days after starring as Saracens lifted their first ever European Rugby Champions Cup the second row won the Land Rover Discovery of the Season award.

But with a crunch Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-final with Leicester Tigers fast approaching this weekend, the new star of English rugby insists he is no mood to stop there.

On Wednesday night Itoje beat Sale Sharks’ Sam James, Leicester Tiger Harry Thacker, Northampton duo Paul Hill and Harry Mallinder as well as Harlequins’ Jack Clifford to the gong at the glittering sold out Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards ceremony at the London Hilton, Park Lane.

The Land Rover Discovery of the Season award forms part of Land Rover’s ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign and its commitment to supporting rugby at all levels; from grassroots to the elite, recognising the burgeoning young talent emerging through English rugby, and 21-year-old Itoje was a worthy winner as he helped Saracens to the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table as well as to European glory.

However, there is still plenty more up for grabs as Sarries bid to defend their domestic crown, and Itoje admits he is not about to rest on his laurels.

“It is great to be named the Land Rover Discovery of the Season and it tops off what has been a great few days for me personally,” he said.

“This is great and the weekend was obviously a tremendous success and we enjoyed ourselves on the Saturday, but when we rocked up to work on Tuesday we knew that was all over.

“We know that our season isn’t over and we don’t want it to be over and we have had two good training sessions from then so I think everyone is switched on and everyone knows what we want to do and what the task at hand is.

“I am not carried away with it at all. As I said, our season is not over and it would be a shame if it is over this week.

“The playing squad don’t want that to happen and neither do the coaches so we will try and make sure that doesn’t happen.

“I know people are talking me up a bit but I know I am nowhere near the finished article. I am 21 years old and I don’t think I have hit my prime and if I want to hit my prime I have to continue to work hard, continue to push on and train hard.

“If I fail to do any of those things I think I will plateau and possibly become a worse player and I don’t want that to happen.”

The award is for the best under-23 player in Aviva Premiership Rugby with the shortlist compiled by Land Rover ambassador David Flatman, ESPN’S Tom Hamilton, ITV’s Nick Heath, Premiership Rugby Head of Academies and Development Mike Hynard, the Press Association’s Nick Purewal, Alex Lowe from The Times and BBC’s Sonja McLaughlan, while Premiership Rugby's Communications Director Paul Morgan chaired the panel.

And Itoje was quick to heap praise on Saracens’ director of rugby Mark McCall after walking away with another accolade.

“Mark is a very interesting guy,” he added. “A lot of people crave attention and want the successes to be about them but Mark is not that type of person.

“He is an extremely humble person, a very diligent man and someone who works unbelievably hard for the cause.

“He deserves a hell of a lot of credit, him and all the coaches, they do a remarkable job and keep us hungry and keep us humble.”

Meanwhile Leicester hooker Thacker did come away with some silverware, after winning the Citizen Try of the Season award for his stunning effort against midlands rivals Northampton Saints.

And the youngster admits it's been an incredible season for the Tigers as he has stepped up in the absence of Tom Youngs and Leonardo Ghiraldini.

He said: “I was just happy to get over the line really for that try as it was quite early on in the Saints versus Leicester derby. It was my first experience of it and I was just extremely happy to get over and then I was thinking that we just have to win this game.

“Looking back I never thought I would score tries like that and I probably won’t ever again if I’m honest.

“The club means a lot to me, the fans and the supporters too. Growing up I used to idolise everyone playing in that shirt so for me I am as much of a fan as I ever was. So pulling that shirt on week in week out, emotionally it means a lot to me.”

Maro Itoje was named the Land Rover Discovery of The Season award winner at this year’s Aviva Premiership Rugby awards. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal

To get all the latest news from Premiership Rugby sign up to our Newsletter

For more news, try out News Saracens