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Maro Itoje linked with huge Premiership move... and Alex Goode is off as well - The Rugby Pod

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Maro Itoje has been linked with a loan switch to Leicester rather than spend next season with Championship-bound Saracens. One of Warren Gatland’s potential 2021 Lions captains, the England lock has been touted for quite some time with a temporary move away from Allianz Park.

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An approach from Racing 92 for him to make camp in the Top 14 for 2020/21 was quashed due to objections from rival Premiership clubs who reportedly didn’t take kindly to the prospect of Eddie Jones bending the selection rules to accommodate a player who would have been based outside England.

However, five weeks on from Racing president Jacky Lorenzetti admitting that his ambitious cross-channel approach wasn’t going to work, an in-England move has now been rumoured for Itoje – a switch to Tigers who will have Steve Borthwick, the forwards coach for the 25-year-old player’s entire England career and the 2017 Lions tour, soon taking over as head coach.

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Speaking on the latest edition of The Rugby Pod, Jim Hamilton, the ex-Scotland international who played the last few years of his career with Itoje at Saracens, suggested a switch to Welford Road was potentially on the cards.

Asked on the rumour mill section of the show if he had anything to offer, he said: “I saw one, a big one as well, just before we came on to do the podcast, so I have not done enough digging and there’s been a couple of reports.

“It was John Mitchell who mentioned how Maro and Mako (Vunipola) would be staying at Saracens but then I saw something about Maro to Leicester. Genuinely, I’m not throwing a dead line amongst the pigeons here. I genuinely saw it, so I’m going to do a bit more digging on that.

“The more and more I think about it, I can’t see how someone like Maro Itoje is going to play in the Championship. I know they [Saracens] are going to put on some exhibition games. Imagine if he went to Leicester. I’m not throwing it out there to cause a stir. I have seen it somewhere and I will dig because I have got time to dig. I saw it on social media somewhere.”

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Hamilton’s co-star Andy Goode then offered up speculation about his namesake, the Saracens and out-of-favour England back Alex Goode. “There is a little rumour that Alex Goode may be heading off to the land of the rising sun, following Freddie Burns and a few of the boys over there,” he said, adding that he has also heard suggestions of Makazole Mapimpi, the World Cup winner with South Africa, possibly being another Leicester target.

“Talking about Leicester, one of our favourite names may end up at Leicester if the rumours are true. Mapimpi. I’ve heard that rumour.”

The show’s segment finished with some speculation concerning Johan Ackermann, Gloucester’s South African boss. “Talking about Japan, what about Johan Ackermann? The rumours are that he is heading over to Japan to go to the Docomo Red Hurricanes,” said Goode.

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“He signed a contract extension in May of last year, the back-end of last season. Maybe that runs out next year and he is going to go for the following season. We shall see. Clearly, he is a man in demand.

“We don’t know if this season will restart but Gloucester are down in ninth, they are flattering to deceive a bit this year after some brilliant stuff last year, but I know the Premiership is tight and a couple of wins changes things. I cannot see him leaving Gloucester, but that is the rumour.”

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Jon 3 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Sopoaga is going to be more than good enough to look up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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f
finn 12 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

What a difference 9 months makes! Last autumn everyone was talking about how important versatile bench players were to SA’s WC win, now we’re back to only wanting specialists? The timing of this turn is pretty odd when you consider that some of the best players on the pitch in the SA/Ireland match were Osbourne (a centre playing out of position at 15), Feinberg-Mngomezulu (a fly-half/centre playing out of position at 15), and Frawley (a utility back). Having specialists across the backline is great, but its not always necessary. Personally I think Frawley is unlikely to displace Crowley as first choice 10, but his ability to play 12 and 15 means he’s pretty much guaranteed to hold down a spot on the bench, and should get a decent amount of minutes either at the end of games or starting when there are injuries. I think Willemse is in a similar boat. Feinberg-Mngomezulu possibly could become a regular starter at 10 for the Springboks, but he might not, given he’d have to displace Libbok and Pollard. I think its best not to put all your eggs in one basket - Osbourne played so well at the weekend that he will hopefully be trusted with the 15 shirt for the autumn at least, but if things hadn’t gone well for him he could have bided his time until an opportunity opened up at centre. Similarly Feinberg-Mngomezulu is likely to get a few opportunities at 15 in the coming months due to le Roux’s age and Willemse’s injury, but given SA don’t have a single centre aged under 30 its likely that opportunities could also open up at 12 if he keeps playing there for Stormers. None of this will discount him from being given gametime at 10 - in the last RWC cycle Rassie gave a start at 10 to Frans Steyn, and even gave de Klerk minutes there off the bench - but it will give him far more opportunities for first team rugby.

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