Saracens v Sale, StoneX Stadium, tomorrow 3pm: Backing for England star from his London club
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Saracens have wasted no time tapping into the leadership skills of Maro Itoje that Eddie Jones this week called into question.
In his new book on leadership Jones says he does not see Itoje as a future England captain because he is “very inward-looking”.
The Red Rose boss adds that his second row star “drives himself rather than anyone else. He doesn’t usually influence people off the field”.
Itoje, who skippered England to Junior World Cup glory in 2014, played every minute of autumn Tests against Tonga, Australia and South Africa.
Yet he has immediately made himself available to start for Saracens against Premiership rivals Sale tomorrow.
Sarries boss Mark McCall said: “Maro’s always been a very important leader here, even from a young age. He’s somebody that people listen to.
“He just jumps back in there and was very important in our training sessions this week. It’s great to have him back.”
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Itoje is the only player to start for England this autumn and Saracens tomorrow where he will come up against international team mates Bevan Rodd, Raffi Quirke and Tom Curry.
The StoneX clash marks a reunion between Sale boss Alex Sanderson and the London club with whom he spent 17 years as player and coach.
So close were the bonds forged that Sanderson is staying with Saracens attack coach Kevin Sorrell and planned to go out for a beer with his old mates last night.
He admits even his wife raised eyebrows at that, but the 42-year old said: “The one thing you can take from sport, the forever thing that lasts, is the friendship and the memories you make.
“If you let professionalism and the need to win overcome all those principles of friendship, if winning matters that much to you, you’re some shallow person. If they start to take a lesser priority you’ve lost the essence of why you play.
“Look I’m not seeing them Saturday and there will be nothing but the healthiest desire to beat them on Sunday.
“It’s as it would be if you were playing against your brother. You want those bragging rights. I don’t need to not speak to someone to want to beat them 24 hours later.
“I could have a beer with someone and still be the most competitive over tiddlywinks. The two things are completely separate.”
Bath suffered last-gasp heartbreak as England star Sam Simmonds struck to give Exeter a 23-16 win and hand their West Country rivals an eighth straight Premiership loss.
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Stuart Hooper’s winless side were within touching distance of their first victory in a crisis-hit season thanks to Miles Reid’s try and 11 points from the boot of Orlando Bailey.
They led 10-6 at half-time and looked to have absorbed all the Chiefs could throw at them.
But Rob Baxter’s side held its nerve and two minutes from time number eight Simmonds powered over for the try which silenced a full house at the Rec.
Bristol ’s struggles also continue after England squad fullback Tommy Freeman struck twice for Northampton to give Saints a 36-20 win at Ashton Gate.
George Furbank and Paul Hill also went over as Chris Boyd’s side returned to the top four.
Billy Twelvetrees was another to bag a try brace on the road as Gloucester edged Wasps 35-33 in a thriller in Coventry.
The home side trailed by 16 points with seven minutes left before two tries scored and converted by fly-half Jacob Umaga brought Wasps agonisingly close to a famous comeback.
Newcastle and Worcester will try again today after last night’s clash at Kingston Park was postponed due to the incoming Storm Arwen.