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Six Nations In Focus: Maro Itoje

A Test match animal or a penalty machine, England's Maro Itoje regularly divides opinion.

However, you don't earn 76 caps for your country and feature in all six Tests over two British & Irish Lions tours without being a magnificent player.

Itoje revealed last year that an undisclosed underlying health issue had compromised his form in recent seasons but he now seems to be on the mend and he has played a leading role in the Red Rose's Six Nations campaign.

The 29-year-old was excellent in last weekend's win over Ireland and will be looking to back it up on Saturday when Steve Borthwick's side conclude the Championship against France in Lyon.

Rugby Union



Maro Itoje



Place of Birth

Camden, England






Lock, Blindside Flanker


6ft 5in



International Caps

76 for England, Six for the British & Irish Lions

International Points


Background and Profile

Born in Camden, London to Nigerian parents, Itoje started playing rugby at St George's School in Harpenden before earning a scholarship to Harrow School.

Among the most prestigious school in England, Saracens and England colleague Billy Vunipola was also educated at the institution, while it has also overseen the education of seven British Prime Minsters, including Winston Churchill.

Itoje's school days saw him exposed to several sports, representing England at the shot put and he went on to university, studying politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies. 

That ran alongside his rugby career, debuting for Saracens as a teenager during the 2013/14 Anglo-Welsh Cup.

The Londoner has enjoyed a fine career with Sarries, winning five Premiership titles and three European Champions Cups, and there is still the potential for more silverware at club level in the coming months. 

International Career

However, he has not enjoyed the same success at international level, but Itoje has more than played his part with England and the Lions.

After representing his country at under 18 level, he was named Man of the Tournament for his performances in the 2014 Six Nations Under 20s Championship, scoring a try in every match.

Itoje then co-captained that side to glory in the same year's Junior World Championship glory in New Zealand.

After playing for the England Saxons in 2015, he was called up to Stuart Lancaster's wider training group for that year's Rugby World Cup, but he missed out on the final selection. 

Only after Eddie Jones' appointment in 2016 did Itoje make his senior breakthrough. He featured throughout England's Grand Slam and has been a regular ever since. He played all 80 minutes in the 2019 World Cup final and went the distance in the six games he started in last year's run to the Bronze medal.

The 29-year-old has also toured New Zealand and South Africa with the Lions, featuring in all six Tests in that time. 

What to Expect 

During his early career, Itoje often interchanged between the back and second rows, as his mobility allowed him to play on both sides of the scrum and in its heart.

There was even a time when it was hypothesised that he could even be given a free role as a roaming number eight but he is now settled in the second row, with fleeting visits to the six shirt.

A brilliantly agile jumper in the line-out, his athletic ability also allows him to get around the field and have a say at rucks by creating turnovers.

That enthusiasm can spill over and he has a habit of rubbing up opposition fans, and sometimes referees, the wrong way. The England star is one of the most vocal players in world rugby and his comments are often audible on television.

With forward battles usually won by unseen and underrated work, his visible willingness to rile opponents and push the rules means he can sometimes switch between being really good to equally bad, with the penalty count against him occasionally striking.

Itoje has matured and toned his bluster down in recent years but remains fantastically abrasive and at 29, still has plenty of great rugby ahead of him.

Any odds displayed were correct at the time of writing and are subject to fluctuation.

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