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‘He is back’: Maro Itoje excels as Saracens show their strength in win over Harlequins

“He is back,” said Jamie George, with an emphatic flourish to underscore the point. The he in question was Maro Itoje, and the ever-effusive George was happy to have the chance to wax lyrical about his Saracens and England colleague after the lock’s starring role in Saturday’s win over Harlequins.

Itoje had been just about the defending champions’ best on his return from the World Cup against Leicester two weeks ago; on Saturday, he was even better. The second rower led the way throughout a derby demolition as Harlequins, who entered the weekend top of the table, were played off their own park. No wonder George had plenty to say.

“He is back in a big way,” the hooker emphasised. “He is as driven as he’s ever been. You can see it in the way he’s moving, you can see it in the way he’s talking, in the build-up in the week.

“It’s contagious. I’ve got a responsibility to show other people that too. You see Maro like that and I’m like, ‘I need to be there’. He’s a huge leader, he’s an incredible player and he’s backing his words up with his actions. I don’t have enough superlatives for Maro Itoje.”

It was a complete performance from Itoje, who has added lineout calling to his game over the last couple of years and helped manufacture a series of mauls that helped Saracens stomp all over their hosts. Itoje remains a proper pest in skirmishes close to the ruck, intelligently hassling young Harlequins nine Will Porter around the fringes throughout. He was even able to show off his long strides in open space on one 30-yard gallop soon after the half-time interval.

Maro Itoje now calls Saracens’ lineout

Most certainly, it was a performance that looked like the Itoje of old. It feels perfectly natural to be talking about the 29-year-old