Itoje’s rise to the top gathers pace

Maro Itoje on the burst for Saracens

Saracens forward Maro Itoje’s playing career has taken another step forward with the news that he has been named as Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month for December.

This capped a stellar year for the former England Under-20 captain and Saracens’ forward Maro Itoje, who only celebrated his 21st birthday at the end of October.

“This month’s Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month has shown a maturity on the field way beyond his years all season,” said BT Sport analyst and former England star Austin Healey.

“But it is not just his temperament that makes Maro Itoje stand out as a definite England second row of the future – he possesses great physical attributes and more importantly amazing technique.

“When carrying his hands and timing are excellent, when tackling he is strong and rarely misses, but for me it is at the breakdown where he is best. He has good special awareness in the rucks and often finds a way to bounce to his feet and stay deep in the ruck, therefore using his feet to disrupt possession.”

Itoje was in stunning form through December as his club continued their unbeaten start to not only the Aviva Premiership Rugby season but also the European Rugby Champions Cup campaign.

Healey added: “He will play for England, the big question is will he be Eddie Jones’ captain.”

Rugby fans also had their say on who deserved to win the coveted Aviva Premiership Rugby Player of the Month Award, as they became the 10th Judge. Joining the panel of nine judges, fans voted for the player that had impressed them the most during the month of December.

Each month, one lucky fan who votes as a 10th Judge will be selected at random to win four tickets to an Aviva Premiership Rugby game of their choice!

Itoje was involved in an unprecedented four-way battle in the voting with runners-up Wasps’ Elliot Daly, his Saracens’ team mate Owen Farrell and Exeter Chiefs’ No 8 Thomas Waldrom.

As well as the fans’ vote, Itoje was voted for by a panel of media professionals – Nick Mullins (BT Sport), Alastair Eykyn (BT Sport), Mick Cleary (The Daily Telegraph), Steve James (The Sunday Telegraph), Sarah Mockford (Rugby World), Jill Douglas (ITV Sport), Chris Jones (BBC 5 Live), David Rogers (Getty Images) and Ben Coles (Planet Rugby). The panel was chaired by Paul Morgan, Premiership Rugby’s Communications Director.

Itoje wins a trophy and £250 to donate to a charity of his choice.

Winners in the 2015-16 season

October – Nick Evans (Harlequins)
November – Nathan Hughes (Wasps)
December – Maro Itoje (Saracens)

Winners in the 2014-15 season

September – Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)
October – Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby)
November – Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs)
December – Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
January – Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby)
February – Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
March – Elliot Daly (Wasps)
April – Joe Simpson (Wasps)

Winners in the 2013-14 season

September – Jacques Burger (Saracens)
October – Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
November – George Ford (Bath Rugby)
December – Nick Easter (Harlequins)
January – Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
February – Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers)
March – Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
April – Chris Ashton (Saracens)

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