Maro Itoje won't be able to play in every game for England this summer due little known rule - Ruck

Maro Itoje won’t be able to play in every game for England this summer due little known rule

Maro Itoje is set to join England’s tour to Japan and New Zealand, despite approaching a key player welfare threshold.

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The Saracens second-row, who is expected to act as vice-captain following Ellis Genge’s season-ending injury, has expressed his eagerness to participate.

Itoje has logged 2,231 minutes across 29 matches this season, heading into Saracens’ Gallagher Premiership semi-final against Northampton Saints this Friday, according to The Telegraph.

Maro Itoje of England during the Six Nations Match between England and Wales at Twickenham, London on 10 February 2024 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

This figure places him close to the limit established by a 2018 agreement between the Rugby Players’ Association, the Rugby Football Union (RFU), and Premiership Rugby, which caps players at 35 match involvements or 2,400 minutes to safeguard against injury.

The limit, based on University of Bath research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, indicates players exceeding this threshold face a significantly higher risk of injury in the following season.

This situation marks the second instance of a leading England player surpassing the limit. Full-back Freddie Steward played every minute of the 2022 tour to Australia, with the RFU later explaining his ‘lower injury risk’ due to his ‘age and position’.


  1. Maro Itoje, full name Oghenemaro Miles Itoje, was born in Camden to Nigerian parents on 28 October 1994. He stands at 6ft 5in (195cm) and weighs 18st 2lb (115kg).
  2. He began playing rugby at age 11 when introduced to the sport at St George’s School in Harpenden, which was also attended by England teammates Owen Farrell and George Ford.
  3. Itoje represented England at the U17 level in shot put and played basketball to a high level before finally settling on rugby.
  4. He captained the England U20 team that won the 2014 Junior World Championship final against South Africa, scoring a try in every U20 Six Nations game earlier that year.
  5. Nicknamed ‘The Pearl,’ the England and Saracens second-row launched a podcast in 2020 called Pearl Conversations, featuring discussions with groundbreakers from across society.
  6. Between 2015 and 2016, Itoje had a 31-match unbeaten run in games he started for club and country, and made his England debut against Italy in 2016.


In his remarkable lineup, Owens features three Welsh luminaries – Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Williams, and Gethin Jenkins. Additionally, he acknowledges the contributions of Lee Byrne, Dwayne Peel, and Leigh Halfpenny to the sport.

Notably, a striking facet of Owens’ chosen players is their collective leadership qualities, with the majority of the selected individuals having served as captains for their respective nations.

Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

Fixtures for the Six Nations - Round 1

Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”