The rapid rise of Maro Itoje

By George Ramsay, CNN

Published 1241 GMT (2041 HKT) February 3, 2017
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Rugby's rising star Maro Itoje will return to international duty as England seeks to defend its Six Nations title. David Rogers/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images/file
Itoje is only in his fourth season of professional rugby, but he is already considered one of the world's best players. Vitality
Growing up, he proved himself to be a natural sportsman, excelling at rugby, football, basketball and shotput. David Rogers/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
His size and athleticism make the second-row forward a natural lineout target. Cameron Spencer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
Itoje has also proven his power in the tackle and breakdown areas, something he attributes to throwing the shotput as a teenager. David Rogers/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Itoje came off the bench to make his England debut in the 2016 Six Nations clash with Italy. He was man of the match against Wales later in the tournament as unbeaten England won its first title since 2011. Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Itoje played every minute of England's 3-0 whitewash over Australia in June 2016 -- the first time it had won an away series against the Wallabies. However, injury ruled him out of the November international series. David Rogers/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
With his club Saracens, Itoje has won two English Premiership titles, the European Champions Cup and the LV= Cup. Here, he celebrates European glory with fellow England lock George Kruis. David Rogers/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Itoje has quickly established himself as a core member of Saracens' squad since making his senior debut in the 2013-14 season. David Rogers/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Saracens' defense coach Paul Gustard has said Itoje could be as good as former England captain Martin Johnson. The 2003 World Cup winner also wore the No. 4 shirt. Dave Thompson/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images