Premiership final: Maro Itoje says leaving Saracens was ‘never in question’ amid salary cap scandal
|Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 18 June. Kick-off: 15:00 BST Coverage: Updates on BBC local radio and live scores on the BBC Sport website|
England lock Maro Itoje says leaving Saracens in the midst of the salary cap scandal was “never in question”.
This is the north London club’s first season back in the top flight following their relegation for breaking salary cap rules.
Saracens are bidding to secure their sixth Premiership title at Twickenham.
Itoje, who is playing in his fifth domestic showpiece, said he was “always going to be at Saracens”.
“To me this club is more than just a rugby club,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“It is more than just my employer. I genuinely do care about the club.
“It is my boyhood club. Where my parents live in Edgeware is 10 minutes away from Copthall.
“Obviously there was a bit of talk about going somewhere for the short-term [after relegation], but leaving Saracens was never in question.
“I was always going to be at Saracens and playing at Saracens.
“Saracens is truly a special club with a special environment. It is the people who make it special – it is the staff, it is the players, it is the ownership to the kit man. Everyone is important.”
Saracens finished the season second in the Premiership table, seven points behind Leicester.
They came from behind to beat Harlequins 34-17 at StoneX Stadium on Saturday, with Premiership player of the season Ben Earl scoring a hat-trick.
This weekend’s opponents Leicester beat Northampton Saints in the other semi-final.
‘Relegation was good for us’
As the squad prepares for the biggest game in English club rugby, Itoje says the season in the second-tier Championship was a “humbling experience”, but one that brought the group together.
“That relegation year was a tough year, but for the core group we wanted to get the club back to these sort of occasions,” he added.
“While it was tricky at times, we knew that if we stick together – and especially given the quality of personnel – we knew we were going to be alright.
“Going to places like Nottingham and Doncaster Knights, especially during Covid, it was like rolling back the years.
“But I think it was good for us. That year a lot of young guys found their way. Those types of experiences either bring you tighter together or further apart, and I would like to think it brought us tighter together.
“Saturday is a chance for us to make a new memory for ourselves, and to make an even tighter bond, and that’s why it is so exciting.”
Another high-profile player who stayed despite relegation was British and Irish Lions hooker Jamie George, who says a trip to Twickenham has been the sole focus for a year and a half.
“It means a huge amount to a lot of people here. We have been hurting for 18 months, but we are back where we want to be,” George told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“The minute we got relegated we were already talking about this moment.”