Maro Itoje returns to form ahead of Leinster showdown

Kidney confident of London Irish Premiership credentials despite Gloucester defeat

Maro Itoje helped Saracens to victory over Harlequins. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Maro Itoje helped Saracens to victory over Harlequins. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

 

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said Maro Itoje looked “full of energy” as he delivered a standout performance in his side’s 24-11 win over Harlequins.

The England international was criticised for looking “out on his feet” by Clive Woodward, after starting all five Six Nations games in a disappointing championship.

However, the 23-year-old delivered the perfect riposte as he scored Saracens’ second try with a bulldozing run through the Quins defence, fending off four players en route.

McCall praised his star lock and despite being frustrated with the stop-start nature of the first Aviva Premiership match at the London Stadium, he said his side are in a strong position in the play-off race with four games to go.

“Maro was brilliant and looked like he was full of energy, full of life and he was deservedly man of the match,” he said.

“It will give him a lot of confidence going into next weekend, but his performance wasn’t a surprise to us.

“Sometimes when people tell you that you look tired then you can feel tired, but Maro is not that kind of individual and I think he proved that.”

McCall confirmed that Owen Farrell (quadricep) and George Kruis (back) are both touch-and-go to make Saracens’ Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster next weekend.

Meanwhile New London Irish boss Declan Kidney has no doubt about the Exiles’ Aviva Premiership credentials despite them suffering another damaging defeat. 

Declan Kidney and Les Kiss watch on during London Irish’s defeat to Gloucester. Photograph: Martin bennett/Inpho
Declan Kidney and Les Kiss watch on during London Irish’s defeat to Gloucester. Photograph: Martin bennett/Inpho

Although Irish claimed two bonus points in a 33-29 Madejski Stadium loss against Gloucester, they are 10 adrift of 11th-placed Worcester with just four games remaining.

A quickfire return to the Championship beckons after one season back in the top flight, yet technical consultant Kidney is far from downbeat.

“I’ve seen the structure in behind the club,” former Ireland head coach Kidney said.

“I believe it is strong enough to be there (in the Premiership), absolutely.

“There were things to encourage me today, but we still lost. That is the flip side of the coin. At the end of the day, it was a game when we came out second.

“There are a series of big games. We have another massive game in two weeks’ time against Harlequins, and we need to get ourselves right for that.

“You could break the game into four quarters today. The first quarter we did reasonably OK and we managed to get points and do what we wanted to do.

“The second quarter, we probably need to learn how to manage our game, and that’s not any one person, that is everybody. The third quarter, there were also some issues that I know we can address, and the fourth quarter we finished quite well.

“I know that winning can be a habit and losing can be a habit, and we just need to learn how to finish off these games.”

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