Maro Itoje

Maro Itoje backed by Sam Warburton to captain 2021 side

Former Wales skipper Sam Warburton, who led the Lions to victory in Australia in 2013 and to a drawn series with New Zealand in 2017, says being captain of the party would "just suit" Itoje.

"I was so impressed with him in 2017," Warburton told BBC Sport.

"I would follow him into battle."

Alun Wyn Jones, who captained Wales to the Six Nations title and is targeting his fourth tour, is the heavy favourite to lead the Lions against the Springboks.

"Don't get me wrong, if Alun Wyn was captain I wouldn't bat an eyelid," Warburton added.

England forward Maro Itoje knows what to expect from Tonga

A clash against the big-hitting Pacific Islanders launches England’s World Cup quest in Sapporo on Sunday in what will be only the third meeting between the rivals and their first since France 2007.

Itoje has played alongside the Vunipolas at Saracens for six years and since 2016 has operated in the same England pack, leaving a lasting impression of the ruinous impact the brothers of Tongan heritage can have.

“I’ve seen what those two have done to people! It can be dangerous if you allow it to be,” Itoje said.

Itoje to miss Six Nations finale

Lock Itoje has returned to Saracens to continue his recovery from a knee injury after being left out of Eddie Jones' 31-man training squad ahead of Saturday's match at Twickenham.

The 24-year-old sustained the problem in England's tournament opener against Ireland on February 2 and was thought to be in the running for a return against Italy until he limped out of a training session last week.

Itoje takes nothing for granted

Itoje, 22, secured the No 4 jersey ahead of vastly experienced Alun Wyn Jones for the New Zealand Maori match on Saturday, in a side Warren Gatland has always said would resemble what trots out against for the first tests against the All Blacks at Eden Park, on June 24.

But Gatland has always allowed himself wriggle room, saying he's not showing his full hand, though the side is close to his test line-up.

So Itoje is not picturing himself as a test No 4.