England lock Maro Itoje reveals all about underlying health condition diagnosis - Ruck

England lock Maro Itoje reveals all about underlying health condition diagnosis

Since making his debut during the 2016 Six Nations, few players have made as significant an impact as Maro Itoje.

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Standing at 6ft 5in, the second-row has become a cornerstone of England’s rugby squad, excelling under both Steve Borthwick and his predecessor Eddie Jones.

Itoje’s journey from a teenage prodigy to an international star saw him earning accolades well before his 21st birthday. Now at 29, he stands as a mentor to younger players in France, with his illustrious career at Saracens serving as a testament to his excellence.

However, in the lead-up to this year’s World Cup, Itoje faced criticism for not meeting his own high standards during the 2023 Six Nations. Addressing these concerns, he recently disclosed that he had been battling an undisclosed “underlying” health condition, shedding light on the challenges he faced.

“I guess over the last year or so there have been things which have probably affected my conditioning, which has resulted in me being perhaps a little less energised,” the Saracens talisman told i. “There have been injury bits, a few niggles, a few things that I’ve had ongoing which I didn’t know were ongoing.

“It was some health things behind, which I know have had an impact. Due to how I was feeling it probably wasn’t the quality of what I would expect for myself. All of that has kind of been resolved. I’m now in, I think, a much better position.”

“I don’t think I’ve been terrible,” he added. “I don’t think I’ve gone on the pitch being, you know, a liability. I still think I’ve made an impact, I don’t think I’ve been a dud on the field. It was an underlying thing, which none of us knew was going on. Through doing some checks, we were able to ID it and then rectify it.”

As England prepares for the summer series, Itoje’s resilience and experience will undoubtedly be invaluable to the squad.

What England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup heroes look like now, some are very different

Sir Clive Woodward’s England lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy for the first – and so far only – time in 2003, after a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in extra time.

Woodward’s side are still the only northern hemisphere side to win the World Cup, with the other nine tournaments won by South Africa (four), New Zealand (three) and Australia (two). 

In a video posted by England Rugby’s Instagram account, Wilkinson – who scored the all important drop goal 28 seconds from time – said: ‘It’s great being back with all the guys from the squad 20 years on.

‘It’s great to be able to see everyone, and to get a feel of what everyone’s been up to, but also to I guess get a feel for why we were able to do what we did 20 years ago, because it still lives on in everyone.’

Take a look at how some of the key players look now:

Phil Vickery

A former Gloucester and London Wasps prop, Phil Vickery called time on his career at the end of the 2010 Premiership season. The two-time British & Irish Lion was a revered opponent across the world, and has since started a successful clothing brand ‘Raging Bull’, with his on-field nickname. Vickery was forced into retirement due to a series of neck injuries, and in 2012 he joined Worcester Warriors as their Scrum Coach.

Vickery has also tried his hand at sports broadcasting, as he was apart of the commentary team for the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. His on-screen appearances have also been witnessed across a variety of TV shows, including ‘Celebrity MasterChef’, which he won in 2011. An eternal fan favourite at Kingsholm Stadium, Vickery was appointed the title of Deputy Lieutenant of Gloucestershire in 2015.

Jonny Wilkinson

Renowned for his iconic drop-goal that secured victory against Australia in the 2003 final, Wilkinson transitioned into a coaching role with Toulon, focusing on kicking and skills development following his retirement. He also now works as a pundit for ITV Sport during Rugby World Cup’s and the Six Nations.

Will Greenwood

Greenwood continued to shine on the international stage following the 2003 glory, and went on to represent the British & Irish Lions for their 2005 tour to New Zealand. He ended his career at Harlequins in 2006, and soon gave his experienced views through analysis and punditry. Greenwood co-hosted the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ TV series with former Wales international Scott Quinnell, and was an on-screen analyst for ITV as England reached the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Will has also explored opportunities away from rugby, and is the current Chief Customer Officer for data and software company Afiniti’s London office. Greenwood’s family was struck with tragedy, after his son Freddie died just 45 minutes after being born. The former England centre underwent an inspirational walk to the North Pole in memory of his son, and helped to raise over £750,000 for Borne’s research. Greenwood is a patron of Borne, who are a medical research charity that work with cases of premature birth. He is also a patron of Child Bereavement UK, which is a charity that support parents who have lost a child.