Saracens and England lock Maro Itoje is fast becoming one of the best second rows in world rugby. Against Leicester Tigers on New Years Day, the big man showed us why the hype is well justified.
In the game that saw Manu Tuilagi suffer his season ending knee injury, Itoje was busy helping his side to a crucial away victory at Welford Road.
Known for his powerful tackling and ball carrying, the 22-year-old changed tack just before the hour mark when, in an at-all-costs charge down on an Owen Williams’ kick, he channeled his inner Steven Gerrard.
Video Credit: I Cameron
As the replays show, Itoje demonstrated not only exceptional athleticism for a big man but also a smart rugby brain by using his boot to block Williams’ kick.
Had he kicked the ball from Williams’ hands he would surely have been given his marching orders. However, as the footage clearly shows, his block was inch perfect and was of the quality expected in the Premier League.
In a year where only the exceptional will be chosen by Warren Gatland for the British and Irish Lions summer tour of New Zealand, it will be likes of this that may well be the determining factor for booking a place on the plane in June.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena