Itoje was the latest guest on the All Black great’s ‘Kickin It’ video series on his Facebook page where he speaks to rugby players from around the world.
During their conversation, along with Scottish journalist Lee McKenzie, Itoje mentioned the first time he met Carter after the 2016 European Rugby Champions Cup final, where they had a few post-tournament drinks.
“The first time I met him (Carter) was when I played against him in the 2016 Champions Cup final which was pretty cool,” said Itoje, who went on to claim a man of the match performance with Saracens to defeat Carter’s Racing 92.
“The best part – apart from winning obviously – was when we saw each other after the game and we both had one or two drinks in us.”
Carter then shared his embarrassment about how he acted around the young rugby star, after perhaps one or two too many drinks.
“I woke the next day and I was so embarrassed because like you mention, I probably had too many lemonades and I just remember at the bar I had my hand around you.
“I’ve never met the guy before but it obviously followed the amazing Six Nations that you had that season and your Champions Cup success, man of the match. I had my arm around him and I was like, you’re awesome.
“I was giving him advice like he was my own son: ‘Now you got to keep your feet on the ground, make sure you stay humble, you work hard.’ I woke up and was like ‘man this guy is going to think that I was an absolute idiot’. Probably thought I was fanboying him.”
Itoje laughingly responded: “It was a great day. It was all solid, very good advice.”
However, his first time facing the All Blacks was for the Lions in 2017.
When asked about his experience facing the All Blacks haka, Itoje recalled his experience during the Lions tour.
“The first time I faced the haka was in 2017. Obviously we were there for the Lions tour. So we got off the plane, we had a haka as our welcome … then a couple games later we had the first game and we had the haka. Then we’ll go to another place and we would have a different haka. So as you can imagine, by the end of the tour I was all haka’d out.”
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Itoje said he still respected the haka and grew up watching it.
“I remember growing up [watching] the haka of the New Zealand players – and not only the haka but also the Pacific Island warrior dances – before games and I’m thinking ‘this is so cool’.
“But in terms of my strategy, I just try to remain focused on the game. I don’t think too much into it. It’s interesting because you’ve seen numerous teams do different things against the haka. You’ve seen guys like beating their chest or marching towards it or you’ve seen guys with different symbols or whatever. But a lot of the times, people do different things and they get whooped.
“So the most important thing is making sure you’re ready to go out there and play some good rugby. That’s my focus.”
Itoje also said one of the players he grew up idolising was All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu.
“I was pretty late to rugby,” he said in response to a fan question asking about who inspired him to play rugby. “I started playing rugby when I was 11 years old. So between 11 and 13, 14, my interest in rugby was growing at an exponential rate.
“Then I was like logging on to YouTube and watching all these highlight reels and all these players. And one player which made me want to completely change positions straightaway was Jonah Lomu. I watched him and I was like ‘Wow this guy’s doing this? This guy is so strong and so powerful’.”
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