Maro Itoje praying for Premiership final triumph as Saracens look to make experience count
As the Premiership final build-up reaches fever pitch on Saturday, Maro Itoje will step aside and say a prayer.
Devout Christian Itoje sets no stall in superstition or ritual, but admitted he always prays before each rugby match.
So at Twickenham on Saturday, as Saracens gear up to take on Sale for the Premiership crown, Itoje will do as always – give thanks to God, to centre himself before the big kick-off.
“Maybe two, three hours before kick-off, I will pray,” said Itoje. “I pray before every game. It is a similar prayer every time, there’s slight variations of the same kind of thing.
“I don’t have any rituals, I don’t have any superstitions. I try to keep as superstition and ritual-free as possible, because I don’t like the mental control that can perhaps have over you.
“For me there’s always a balance that I need to find, between being super eager and super energetic and being calm and rational and making good decisions.
“So I always try to find a balance between where I can be really aggressive but then also be calm.”
Itoje has featured in four of Saracens’ five Premiership triumphs. The Men In Black will step into their ninth final on Saturday, and will bid to erase the memory of last year’s 15-12 loss to Leicester at the last hurdle.
Saracens might be in the grip of a new iteration, post-salary cap relegation and full recovery, but Mark McCall’s men still know what is required to win on the biggest occasions. Sale are in their first Premiership final since 2006 by contrast, but Itoje insisted the more composed team on the day will take the spoils.
“We’ve had a lot of experience in these big games and these scenarios, but they have a bit of experience from their side as well,” said Itoje. “But it’s about who takes the game, about who puts themselves on the front foot. It’s about who stands up and is counted on the day.
“We do have experience, but the challenge is to make that experience count. And that’s what we’re going to have to try and do.”
The 28-year-old Itoje first enjoyed Premiership success in 2015. The Lions powerhouse is every bit as pumped up this week as he was eight years ago.
“You just want to go that one more step,” said Itoje. “I’m incredibly excited, incredibly pumped, I just can’t wait to get out there and for us to do our stuff.
“Last year we fell short, while 2015 was obviously my first Premiership final experience. As I came into training on Monday and we started talking about the gameplan, I felt a little bounce in my step that I haven’t felt for quite a while. We’re incredibly excited.”