Itoje determined to continue improving

England forward Maro Itoje says he is continually searching for improvement as he attempts to help the side to a record third consecutive NatWest 6 Nations title.

Itoje, who says he expects to be fit for the opener against Italy having suffered a bruised hip on club duty, says age has brought maturity and the England environment is bringing about development.

The 23-year-old Saracen made his England debut against Italy in 2016 and has since has won 14 caps.

And he looks back at that fixture with fond memories, having since gone on to win the competition twice among other achievements with Eddie Jones' side.

“I’ve matured since then, this is my third Six Nations and that was my first cap,” he said.

“I’ve matured as person and a player. I understand the game better and I’d like to think I’ve improved since then as well.

“I’m 23 now, and with age comes experience and you mature as time goes on.”

'A surreal moment'

Itoje describes his debut as “surreal” and says despite the success the side have enjoyed, they are constantly striving for an extra edge.

“It was a bit of a surreal moment, growing up you watch England play and you admire the players and aspire to be them,” he said.

“I was on the bench and from the second you get onto the pitch you release you’re an England player and as I said it’s quite surreal. It was a great day for myself and for my family to enjoy.”

Speaking from their training camp in Portugal ahead of Sunday’s first Test against Italy, he added: “I feel this is the right environment for me.

"It’s about trying to improve and get better, I think certain areas of my game can get better and it’s up to me to do it.

“This is an extremely exciting time, it’s a tremendous opportunity and to be in the environment is good because you are being pushed every day. It is an environment where the work ethic is to improve and get better.”