England star Maro Itoje has been crowned the world’s best lock after defeating Springboks second rower Eben Etzebeth in a fan-voted poll on social media.

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The 25-year-old British and Irish Lions representative received nearly 58 percent of the vote from fans on RugbyPass‘ Facebook and Instagram accounts as part of the Straight 8 Fan Vote campaign to determine the best player on the planet in each position.

Itoje and Etzebeth were left as the last players standing going into the third and final round of voting after both players emerged unscathed from the quarter-final and semi-final stages of voting.

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After having dominated Etzebeth’s international teammate RG Snyman in the first round with 73 percent of the votes, Itoje backed that up with the same winning margin over Irish star James Ryan in the semi-final.

It wasn’t such smooth sailing for Etzebeth, who claimed 58 percent of the votes in his quarter-final match-up with Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones, before controversially seeing off All Blacks powerhouse Brodie Retallick with only 50.5 percent of fans’ backing.

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Etzebeth’s shrinking winning margin eventually cost him in the final, though, as Itoje’s glittering career to date proved to be too much to turn down.

With two Six Nations, two Grand Slams, four Premierships, three European Champions Cups, 38 England tests, three British and Irish Lions tests and a World Rugby breakthrough player of the year accolade on his CV, it comes as little surprise to see the Saracens star claim top honours.

However, there is consolation for new Toulon recruit Etzebeth – who can boast a World Cup winners’ medal that Itoje hasn’t yet won – in that his qualification into the final round hands him a place in the RugbyPass Straight 8 Fan Vote World XV.

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Both his and Itoje’s teammates will be determined over the coming weeks as the polls are counted for each position.

The Straight 8 Fan Vote will continue over the coming days as fans worldwide vote for who they think is the best flanker on the planet.

Voting for the first round has already begun on RugbyPass‘ Facebook and Instagram stories, with reigning New Zealand Rugby player of the year Ardie Savea pitted against Wales and British and Irish Lions veteran Justin Tipuric.

Elsewhere, promising England youngster Sam Underhill faces off against World Cup-winning Springboks captain Siya Kolisi, while exciting English prospect Tom Curry is up against experienced Wallabies skipper Michael Hooper.

The final first round clash is between current World Rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit and towering French loose forward Charles Ollivon.

To have your say, click the stories on either the RugbyPass Facebook page (here) or the RugbyPass Instagram page (here).

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