RUGBY – Maro Itoje has been named in England’s starting XV to face Ireland in the third round of the Six Nations Championship at Twickenham on Saturday. Itoje will be the youngest second row to start for England in the competition since Garath Archer 20 years ago, and only the eighth forward in the professional era to debut for England before his 22nd birthday.
Maro Itoje replaces the injured Joe Launchbury who himself made his Six Nations debut as a 21 year old in 2013. Saracens second row Itoje is the third forward in the last four years to start for England aged 21 or younger, along with Launchbury and Saturday’s number 8 Billy Vunipola. Current open-side flanker James Haskell was the only player under 22 to debut in England’s forward pack between 2003 and 2013.
Itoje is the youngest second row to start for England in the Five/Six Nations since Garath Archer won his first cap in 1996. Archer won 21 caps between 1996 and 2000, and was first choice throughout the inaugural Six Nations Championship in 2000, before losing his place for good to Martin Johnson.
The youngest forward to start for England during the professional era was prop Robbie Morris, who won his first cap just two days after celebrating his 21st birthday. Morris replaced the injured Julian White against Wales back in 2003 during an injury crisis for England’s props. At the time, Phil Vickery, Trevor Woodman, David Flatman and Jason Leonard were all injured and Morris’s fellow prop in the starting XV was Graham Rowntree. Morris played only one more Test for England but it was Vickery, Woodman, Leonard and White who went on to Rugby World Cup glory later that year.