Maro Itoje has revealed his interest in selecting talented rugby XVs after he took to social media to unveil his Nigerian British XV, a team of current professional players bursting with talent that he would love to captain.
Nominating Ugo Moyne as its director of rugby and Steve Ojomoh and Topsy Ojo as respective forwards and backs/skills coaches, Itoje – who interestingly choose himself at blindside – tweeted that it had been a rigorous process whittling his list down to the necessary 15 players backed up by a five-strong bench.
His chosen backline was packed with power, starting with vice-captain Anthony Watson at full-back, wingers Nathan Earle and Gabriel Ibitoye, midfielders Rotimi Segun and Max Ojomoh, and half-backs Callum and Marcus Watson.
In the pack, he went for a front row of Beno Obano, Gabriel Oghre and Biyi Alo, a second row of Nick Isiekwe and Emeka Ilione, and a back row featuring Itoje himself in tandem with Andy Christie and Simon Uzokwe.
His bench consisted of Danny Hobbs, Josh Ibuanokpe, Elliott Obatoyinbo, Paolo Odogwu and Jordan Olowofela. Itoje also listed Victor Ubogu as scrum coach, Maggie Alphonsi as breakdown coach and Aunty Funke as team manager.
It’s been a tough and rigorous process but I have come down to my final Nigerian British XV of current players. A good blend of experience and youth. Congratulations to all those selected. ???? pic.twitter.com/VBZ2QHzl3h
— Maro Itoje (@maroitoje) July 8, 2020
Aunty Funke will give us tip top organisation as well as the best post match meal. Jollof rice, chicken and plantain ???
— Maro Itoje (@maroitoje) July 8, 2020
Explaining his selection, Itoje wrote: “It’s been a tough and rigorous process but I have come down to my final Nigerian British XV of current players. A good blend of experience and youth. Congratulations to all those selected.
“A lot of experience in the coaching staff! A dangerous backline who would look to break up the game. Five metres out with the pick and go game with our heavy front row will be a weapon.”
Itoje’s selection highlights the African country’s influence on rugby in the UK, but the potential 2021 Lions skipper spoke out just last month about the need for the RFU to do better to break out from its traditional recruitment grounds and expand its horizons to include other areas of society away from the private schools.
Rugby’s ethnicity came under scrutiny following the race protests that broke out in the United States following the death of George Floyd during a police arrest in Minneapolis.
Itoje claimed rugby must do more in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in England if it truly wanted to become an inclusive sport. Speaking on the BBC Rugby Union Weekly podcast, the 25-year-old said: “In terms of reaching communities that rugby hasn’t reached before, it’s two-fold.
“Part of the reason why rugby hasn’t been able to do that is because they have a (private school) system and it seems to be going alright, they still produce quality players, they still produce a lot of successful teams. But you say rugby is an inclusive sport, the challenge is for it to be inclusive for all, not just inclusive for the people who fit the bill.
“Even myself, I didn’t know what rugby was up until I was 11. I remember when England won the World Cup in 2003, it was barely a footnote in my life, it wasn’t an important factor in my life at all. Rugby has a bit of a harder job to attract those type of communities because those communities don’t have a history of the game, but it is definitely something that can be changed.
“To be fair it is moving in a positive direction. If you look at the squad in 2019 for the final a third of the team came from different backgrounds, communities etc, etc. Obviously, I want to be clear that selection should always be based on merit.
“No one is looking for a hand-up or looking for an ethnicity selection. That’s not what we are saying, but what I am advocating for is for rugby to be more inclusive, be more integrated into the societies that it is not necessarily embedded in.”
ICYMI: Our Where Are They Now look at England's 2003 RWC winners reminded us of the important contrast Jason Robinson spotted between Eddie Jones' 2019 squad and Clive Woodward's Class of 2003 https://t.co/TTbQayamNL
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 18, 2020
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