England star Maro Itoje could leave Saracens at the end of the season after reportedly being offered a major pay cut to extend his stay with the Premiership champions.
It is reported that Itoje is earning approximately £800,000 per year, with Saracens now reportedly offering him an extension in the region of £400,000-425,000 per year.
This is due to the new salary cap regulations with Premiership clubs only afforded one marquee player per club, and England captain Owen Farrell is set to retain that category.
Maro Itoje v Owen Farrell
According to a report by the Daily Mail, Itoje and Farrell are currently Saracens‘ two marquee players, but the new regulations coming into place next season means the club cannot pay both players their current salaries as the pair are both out of contract at the end of this season.
While Saracens could still retain both England players’ services, it appears that Itoje has been offered a significant pay cut to extend his stay at the club he has represented throughout his career.
The salary cap is set to return to pre-Covid levels next season, increasing from the current £5 million to £6.4m, but even then, Saracens cannot afford to offer both players the sort of lucrative terms they could previously.
Itoje, therefore, could join the exodus of England internationals to the Top 14, having been linked with Parisian club Racing 92 in the past and won’t be short on offers from France or Japan.
However, this would result in him no longer being eligible for England and potentially the British and Irish Lions in 2025 – which would be his third tour if he is selected.
The RFU’s hybrid contracts could help keep the 29-year-old in the Premiership, with his potential earnings as an England international also aiding.
The SportsMail report adds that Bath fly-half Finn Russell and Japan-bound All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga are earning about £1m per year, and Itoje hoped for a similar offer from Saracens.
It is not entirely clear which players fill the marquee roles for each Premiership club, but it is likely that Marcus Smith does for Harlequins, Russell for Bath, Zach Mercer for Gloucester, Handre Pollard for Leicester Tigers and George Ford for Sale Sharks.
This leaves very few opportunities for Premiership sides to swoop in to secure the second-rower’s services.
Another blow for Steve Borthwick
A potential move away from England for Itoje would be another hammer blow for Red Rose head coach Steve Borthwick.
Jack Willis (Toulouse), Joe Marchant (Stade Francais), and Dave Ribbans (Toulon) are all ineligible, under current RFU regulations, for the 2024 Six Nations after making their moves to the Top 14.
While Henry Arundell will be available for the 2024 Six Nations, he may not be thereafter if he does not return to the Premiership.
The likes of Sam Simmonds and Jack Nowell are also ineligible after moving to the Top 14, while Kyle Sinckler and Lewis Ludlam have been linked with a move to Toulon next season.