England and Saracens lock Maro Itoje has revealed he wants to test himself overseas at some stage in his already-glittering rugby career.
The second-row knows Saracens’ Champions Cup quarter-final against Leinster could be the north Londoners’ last top-drawer hurrah for at least 12 months given their impending Premier League relegation.
Beat tournament favourites Leinster in Dublin on Saturday though, and embattled Saracens would be greatly emboldened towards defending their Champions Cup title against all the odds.
Itoje could also seek a short-term loan deal early next year to wind up for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, while Saracens compete in England’s second-tier Championship.
A long-term move abroad and away from home club Saracens would put Itoje’s England ambitions on hold, given the Rugby Football Union (RFU) policy of not selecting overseas-based players.
“Definitely, I think at some stage in my life I would love to play abroad,” said Itoje.
“I think I’ve had a great life and I think I’m very privileged firstly to play a sport I love and experience the things I do. But experiencing a different culture, a different style, just a different vibe.
“I’ve more or less lived in north-west London for the majority of my life; it’s a lovely place to live and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in England.
“But at the same time it would be nice and great to experience something further down the line at some point.
“I’m fairly open to what the future holds. I don’t really want to pigeon-hole myself into a specific region but when the time is right I’d love to spend at least a season somewhere.
“Nothing’s in place at the moment (for a short-term loan), I have no direct plans of going somewhere at this point in time.
“Saracens have been great in wanting the best for us all and they’ve had that position from the very start.
Lose at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin and Saracens will have no way to pinpoint their next top-level European encounter.
The Allianz Stadium side should sweep through the Championship in 2020/21, but that expected top-flight return in 2021/22 may only yield qualification to Europe’s second-tier Challenge Cup.
Saracens are without suspended talisman fly-half Owen Farrell, and a swathe of top-level players who have already left in the wake of the salary cap scandal.
Precious few top sides have felt such overwhelming pressure on one single game but Itoje has dismissed any notions of fearing the consequences of defeat.
“We don’t go into games to make up the numbers, we don’t go into games just to participate, we go into games to win.
“For me as I said earlier it’s just a huge opportunity, I’m really, really excited and grateful to be playing in such a game, given the circumstances.
“I don’t have a fear of failure but it does highlight the importance of this event. This is obviously a hugely important game. It’s an important event.
“We don’t have next season, we don’t have next season for the Premiership or the European Cup, so it’s important to want to do well and succeed, but also enjoy the experience, enjoy the event, enjoy some European rugby.”
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