Former England captain Chris Robshaw believes Maro Itoje’s international future lies in the second-row after an incredible breakthrough year for the 21-year-old Saracens forward.

Itoje didn’t suffer defeat in a single game he started for Saracens or England last season and started in all three of this summer’s Tests against Australia, a series the visitors won 3-0.

Some may have expected Itoje to replace Robshaw in England’s back-row after the World Cup horror show almost 12 months ago but the Harlequins flanker has risen like a phoenix from the ashes.

The 30-year-old capped his phenomenal recovery with a man-of-the-match performance in England’s 23-7 victory against Australia in his 50th Test but was still full of praise for the young Saracen.

“Maro had an absolutely fantastic year last year, to have an unbeaten season was pretty phenomenal - along with a few of the other guys from Sarries,” Robshaw said.

“He is a very hard worker, he learns, (he’s) very coachable and he just always wants to improve as a player and when you have that kind of mindset, they are great players to have around.

“He has a great impact on the team, good influence on the squad and he is a great player to play with.

“I believe his future is in the second-row, he has been named as European Player of the Year as a lock, so that’s probably where his future is.”

Having seen off the Australians in emphatic fashion, Robshaw is now turning his attention to South Africa who are one of four Tests opponents set visit Twickenham this Autumn.

Australia, Fiji and Argentina will also be at the home of rugby but the Harlequins flanker, who has failed in all four of his previous attempts to get one over the Springboks, has South Africa firmly in his sights.

He may face competition from England EPS squad youngsters Will Evans, Jack Clifford and Teimana Harrison for a starting spot but Robshaw is desperate to continue to perform for club and country.

“You have to continue to improve, you have to keep on working on it and make sure you are playing well for your club,” Harlequins back-row Robshaw said, speaking at the launch of the Crabbies National Rugby Awards at Wimbledon Rugby Club. “We love playing together every time we get to take the field together, we push each other in training and in games we link well, but as with anything there is competition.

“The target is first and foremost to beat South Africa, you look at the squad now and no one in there has beaten South Africa. “The 14-game record is not on our minds, as players you want to keep winning and I am sure from a press point of view it will get picked up from time to time,” he explained.

“But as players you focus on the next game and hopefully if you prepare well and keep doing it right, you will do well.”

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