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Maro Itoje looking to build a new winning run

Published 14/10/2016

Saracens' Maro Itoje is preparing to face Toulon on Saturday
Saracens' Maro Itoje is preparing to face Toulon on Saturday

Maro Itoje admits he his remarkable sequence of victories was ultimately doomed as he seeks to continue a new run when Saracens visit Toulon on Saturday.

Itoje won on every outing for 30 consecutive matches in which he started - including triumphant Aviva Premiership and Champions Cup final appearances, a Grand Slam and 3-0 whitewash of Australia - until a 17-10 loss at Harlequins on September 24.

En route the England lock collected a string of man of the match awards and even at the age of 21-years-old, it is hard to detect any flaws in his game.

Saracens have responded to their setback against Quins by posting two comprehensive victories, but a bigger challenge awaits at the Stade Felix Mayol where Toulon have never been beaten at home.

"Obviously losing was going to come one day. I would love for my career to have gone without me losing a game but unfortunately rugby isn't a fairytale," Itoje said.

"We've bounced back well from that. We improved our performance against Bristol then stepped up another level against Wasps.

"Those bumps in the road happen, but the most important thing is to ensure you learn from it and from the mistakes you made and why the outcome was the outcome.

"As long as you learn from your defeats and you use them as an opportunity to get better, I think it's OK.

"My reaction is to try and be balanced about it. I watch every game back and see where we could have done better, try and figure out with the coaches where we allowed them to get the ascendancy.

"For me, bumps will happen. It is about using them to get better, not whining or complaining about it, but using that as a motivation to grow."

Toulon became the first club to win three successive European Cups, but their reign was ended by Saracens last year.

The rivals clashed in the 2014 final and it was the galaticos on the south coast of France who emerged emphatic 23-6 winners with Saturday's Champions Cup Pool Three rematch a collision between the continent's two biggest heavyweights.

"These are the type of games you ultimately play rugby for - playing against Toulon in France," Itoje said.

"There are not many bigger challenges. They've never lost at home in Europe and that just shows the challenge that is in front of us.

"I think we have prepared well and we've played a lot of big games in recent years to get us ready for this one.

"It is going to be an enormous challenge, but I think it is one we will be ready for.

"French fans are very, very excitable and passionate. They get 100 per cent behind their team and make a lot of noise.

"When you play against French teams their fans make sure you know who you're playing against."

While player burnout is one of the biggest issues in the game, Itoje finds little difficulty in staying fresh.

"Playing rugby and coming to training is not something that I detest. It is enjoyable. I don't think I'd like to swap my job for many others. It is not too mentally straining," he said.

"There are times when it's mentally tough, but I love coming here early in the morning and going to work with people I genuinely enjoy spending time with. So it's fairly easy."

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