Saracens: Maro Itoje always confident his club would be back amongst Premiership’s best

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Saracens second-row Maro Itoje never doubted that his club would be back in the running for the game’s leading prizes although he acknowledged it would be an “amazing achievement” if they managed to beat Leicester Tigers in Saturday’s Premiership final.

Sarries are back in English rugby’s marquee match just a year after they beat Ealing Trailfinders over two legs to earn promotion from the Championship.

It was expected that Saracens‘ relegation to the Championship in 2020 for salary cap breaches would spell the death knell of the North London club, who had been the premier side in England during the previous decade when they won five Premiership titles and were crowned European Champions Cup winners on three occasions.

Confident of club’s return to the top

But Itoje was always confident that it would only be a matter of time before they would be back at Twickenham to compete for honours once again.

“I felt Saracens was the best place for me to continue to grow as a rugby player and as a person and I still felt certain towards it being an environment where I could achieve all my goals,” he said.

“It was a tumultuous period for everyone involved at Saracens but personally I had very little reservations in my mind about staying.

“I knew this was the place I wanted to be and I knew Saracens would be back competing for things. You only need to look at the quality of personnel.

“When I say personnel, I am not only talking about playing staff, I am talking about coaches, head office and support staff to know we would be back at some point at these type of arenas.”

Sarries were first punished in 2019 for repeatedly breaching the salary cap rule before their relegation was confirmed in January 2020.

After that, Covid-19 wreaked havoc throughout the world and Itoje admitted that the pandemic made things more difficult for the StoneX Stadium-based outfit.

But Saracens did well to regroup and most of their players opted to stay with the club with several England players re-signing with the club before they securing immediate promotion from the Championship. They’ve done well upon their return to the Premiership and after finishing second in the standings, they sealed a 34-17 win over Harlequins in their semi-final.

“We want to have successful careers, we don’t want to have a successful year or a successful couple of years. We want to have a successful career,” Itoje explained.

“In order to have that you need to be consistent, you need to be at it and need to have the hunger to go, go and go again year after year.

“I don’t like ranking things but this would be right up there. We have a lot of work to do to get there. Leicester are a top team and we need to make sure we play our best rugby but this would be an amazing achievement for the club if we do achieve it.”

Sean Dyche, the former Burnley Football Club coach, was amongst the recent guest speakers invited to address the Saracens squad and Itoje believes highlighting the importance of self-development from the club is a major reason for their success.

It has helped Itoje to be comfortable talking about various topics, including what would make Saturday’s Premiership final an even bigger occasion, with attracting a wider audience crucial according to the 27-year-old.

“I guess if you compare it to other major sporting events, the Champions League final or the Grand Prix, like in Monaco recently or Miami, that is an event people don’t want to miss,” he added.

“I am sure Twickenham will be sold out and there will be loads of people there but it will predominantly be rugby fans.

“The difference between that and some of the other events I have spoken about is that it is an event ordinary people, ordinary sports fans or people in general, people don’t want to miss.

“They want to be there, feel the atmosphere and feel the experience so that is the challenge for these big events in rugby.

“Of course the rugby fans will always be there and always be important. We can’t do anything without the rugby fans so they need to be heard but we want to make it a spectacle so that the ordinary person doesn’t want to miss it because it’s the Premiership Final, it should be the biggest event in town.”

READ MORE: Elliot Daly: Saracens centre on crucial pub meeting as Premiership final against Leicester Tigers awaits


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