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.
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.
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.”
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.”
As tempting as Friday night lights at The Cornish Pirates may have been for Maro Itoje, it seems the England International could be making the switch to Welford Road?
— The Rugby Pod (@TheRugbyPod) May 12, 2020
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.
“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.”
“I sat in endless meetings where the talk was about wanting homegrown talent, people from Bath – yet I didn’t get given an opportunity”
– @FreddieBurns tells @heagneyl how it fizzled out for him at @bathrugby and why @shokki is an adventure he craves ???https://t.co/c3Iqqo3so2
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 6, 2020
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