Saracens are confident Maro Itoje will sign a new deal and disappoint other clubs keen to make him one of the best-paid players in the country. With Itoje’s current contract at the Premiership champions due to expire next summer, the Guardian understands Harlequins could be among the suitors should the England forward opt for a fresh challenge.
Since signing his last club contract in 2016, Itoje has developed into an international regular and was a starting British & Irish Lion in the New Zealand Tests last year. With average player wages having also risen and the salary cap fixed until 2020, even a champion club like Saracens are being forced to make increasingly tough decisions about whom to retain and release.
No club, however, are officially allowed to approach Itoje before 1 January and Saracens believe the 24-year-old will end up staying in north London. “Talks with Maro have been unbelievably positive,” said a club spokesman, suggesting the player was “in no rush” to leave the club with whom he signed his first professional contract in 2012.
Since then Itoje has helped Saracens win back-to-back European Cups, three Premiership titles and helped England claim two Six Nations titles. Saracens’ director of rugby, Mark McCall, has long felt clubs who produce players who subsequently develop into top internationals should be granted special dispensation under the salary cap.