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England and Saracens lock Maro Itoje has been named European Player of the Year for 2016 after a startling season.
The 21-year-old Saracens player crowned a European Champions Cup winning campaign by being crowned man-of-the-match in the English club’s 21-9 victory over Racing 92 in Lyon.
Capped four times by England, Itoje was also an essential part of the national team that claimed the Six Nations Grand Slam, its first since 2003.
Itoje, along with Saracens teammate George Kruis, are now set to be England’s first-choice lock-pairing when coach Eddie Jones takes the side to his native Australia for a three-Test series against the Wallabies in June.
For the European player award, Itoje beat out not only Kruis but Saracens teammates Owen Farrell and Billy Vunipola, Harlequins flanker Jack Clifford, Northampton’s Wales wing George North, Toulon’s English flanker Steffon Armitage, winner in 2014, and Racing 92’s Dan Carter.
Australia legend George Smith and fellow Wasps Charles Piutau and Elliot Daly, Exeter No.8 Thomas Waldrom and Leicester’s Fijian winger Vereniki Goneva were the other nominees from the English Premiership.
Armitage’s Toulon teammate Guilhem Guirado and Racing 92’s Argentinian winger Juan Imhoff completed the list.
The last three winners of the award were all English: Clermont fullback Nick Abendanon, Steffon Armitage and Jonny Wilkinson.
Gloucester club captain Greig Laidlaw will leave the English Premiership Rugby club at the end of the season to join French Top 14 club Clermont. Scotland captain Laidlaw joined...
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