Itoje ready to impress in Philadelphia

Date published: September 15 2017

Saracens’ Maro Itoje is confident his side can bounce back from their Premiership defeat to Bath when they tackle Newcastle Falcons on Saturday.

Itoje will line-up alongside the club’s other big guns Billy Vunipola, Jamie George, Owen Farrell, Mako Vunipola and Liam Williams for the showcase clash that will be staged at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.

“It was obviously very disappointing for us,” said Itoje, reflecting on their 31-21 reverse at The Rec last time out. “We felt as if we didn’t really put a Saracens performance out there, we felt we were lacking in some areas which led to us having a very poor first half and unfortunately in the second half it was too late to rectify.

“But I think in the long run it will be a good thing for us, especially this early on in the season to learn those lessons now and as time goes by we will hopefully learn and draw from these experiences and continue to grow.”

Itoje even welcomed the setback and believes it will benefit the European champions in the long run.

“I think in the Premiership season there are going to be a lot of highs and a lot of lows and there will be ebbs and flows and it is important to remain level and not go too high with the highs and not too low for the lows," said Itoje, who is also an ambassador for broadcasters BT Sport.

“It was an appropriate response, no one went crazy and no one was exuberantly happy, we addressed the problems and cracked on.”

The England star has also played down concerns that his recent workload could impact on his fitness.

“I’m good to go,” he said. “I’ve had a shorter pre-season but fortunately I am still young and relatively fresh faced and don’t have too many wrinkles on my face and hopefully I can stay that way!

“I’m ready to go, I’m happy to help the club I enjoy playing rugby, it's not a bad life to live.

“I am very fortunate to be at a club where they take a long term view of your personal well being, I know that in time our people will let me know when it is appropriate to be rested, have a week off, they will plan it all in the schedule and make sure I get it.

“That is up to them and we put our faith in them in terms of our planning and that regard and so far it has served us well.”

Itoje has also enjoyed the break from the norm and the build up to what is the first game of a new four-year agreement between Premiership Rugby and promoters AEG Rugby.

“I’ve noticed that people in Philadelphia are sports crazy,” he said. “This is not their natural sport. From talking to people in Philadelphia, you notice that they’re very interested and very receptive of rugby.

"They all think we’re crazy because we don’t have pads but I tell them we’ll be OK. It’s the first time I’ve played rugby in America so it’s a new experience for me. It’s all good.”

BT Sport is where the best in sport go to head-to-head. Watch Newcastle Falcons v Saracens live from Philadelphia on Saturday 16th September on BT Sport 3 from 9pm. For more info go to bt.com/sport

by Graham Jenkins in Philadelphia

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