Saracens reveal why Maro Itoje will stick by them for Championship season
Saracens assistant Alex Sanderson has outlined why staying with the crisis club during their 2020/21 Championship season would be the perfect fit for in-demand Maro Itoje.
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It is felt that continuing to play at a high level on the club scene would have Itoje in the best condition possible to push on with England and then tour with the Lions on their 2021 trip to South Africa.
However, forwards/defence coach Sanderson has a very different perspective and is confident that the 25-year-old Londoner won’t be leaving his home city.
In an interview with The Rugby Paper, Sanderson said: “Maro doesn’t like people talking about him, because he can speak for himself, but if you ask me from my opinion, I hope he does stay with us next season.
“Realistically, Maro might play six games for us in the Championship, and the rest will be international commitments.
“What it offers him is the best strength and conditioning coach in the world in Phil Morrow, and the structure where he could be like a centrally contracted player, where he plays 20 games a season, and then goes into the 2021 Lions tour in the best physical and mental state of his career.
“Maro is one of those players who is highly motivated to be at the highest level all the time, constantly striving to be better, to be the best lock in the world. So, I can understand the attraction of a club like Racing alongside so many exceptional players.
“Maybe this enforced period of reflection will give him the time to work out what’s best for him.”
The Saracens coaching staff have divided the squad between them during the coronavirus lockdown, taking six players each under their wing, and Itoje is one of the players Sanderson has responsibility for.
He has recently been doing some research on American wrestler Dan Gable, who used a rare defeat to push him on to win gold at the 1972 Olympics. It’s a story he will be passing on to Itoje on how to turn adversity into triumph.
“I will be sending the link to Maro because Gable thought about that one loss in the same way as Maro has talked about England’s World Cup final defeat.
“That adversity has accelerated his development faster than anything. The loss has pushed him on to be better in himself, and therefore better prepared to help his team win.
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“Maro is introspective, in the sense that he knows what drives him, and what he needs to do mentally and physically to come to the game in the right space. It is an individual responsibility, which he understands very well.
“He’s a genius of a player in what he can do, and my job is to suggest ideas that might help him further. In many ways when I talk to him it’s a mutual mentoring for me as a coach.
“A lot of the best players carry a bit of (mental) weight in that they think more than the average player, and are harder to manage. Our best players are the ones who challenge you the most. With some players if I say jump they say ‘how high?’ With others, they say ‘why?’”