Maro Itoje is to tap up Alun Wyn Jones for his recovery techniques after joking that the British and Irish Lions captain has returned to camp fully fit and with a new growth of hair.
Jones has been dubbed ‘Lazarus’ by his Lions team-mates after taking only three weeks to heal from the dislocated shoulder suffered against Japan last month.
Now that he has completed what Warren Gatland is describing as a “miracle recovery”, Jones he is available to lead the tourists into Saturday’s first Test against South Africa in Cape Town.
Itoje, his likely second-row partner against the Springboks, insists the world’s most capped player has undergone a restorative comeback in more ways than one.
“Alun Wyn looks like a 24-year-old. I don’t know what recovery method he’s using but somehow his hair’s growing back on the top of his head as well!” Itoje said.
“Whatever recovery he’s using I need to get myself on it. Luckily my hair’s on point! He’s looking good.
“He is a man of a lot of experience, he’s the tour captain and has that kind of presence about him.
“It’s great to have him back. He was desperate to be back and desperate to do whatever he can to help make the tour successful.”
Itoje and Jones formed the lock pairing for the final two Tests against New Zealand in 2017 and four years on, it is the destructive England talisman who tops the engine room pecking order.
“I wouldn’t get into the semantics of that, but what I do know is that this time around I’m much more experienced,” Itoje said.
“First time around it was a whole new experience for me being a Lion, first time playing a Lions test series, first time being in the Lions environment.
“Now I’m a much more rounded player and I think I have a better understanding of the game and I probably have a bit more of an understanding about how I can influence the team in a positive way.
“I have a responsibility to try, depending on selection, to help the team go forward and I have a responsibility to try and energise the team.
“I probably know much more about my responsibility than I did four years ago.”
Itoje, an Arsenal fan from north London, will visit family in Nigeria once the series against South Africa ends on August 7.
“Rugby is not really a thing in Nigeria. I would be surprised if there is any support for the Lions there,” he said.
“My uncle actually texted me the other day and he said I should bring him a black Lions jersey, he said he likes that one.
“Ironically, the last time I was in Nigeria in 2018, I was driving and I saw this little boy running on the road with a Lions training top on.
“I was like ‘where the hell did this boy get this from?’. I’m not too sure if he knows exactly what it is, but at least the message is travelling.”