Nigerian eyes will be on this weekend’s Rugby World Cup final in Japan, because a player with ancestry from the West African country, Maro Itoje is expected tyo play a part in England’s squad against South Africa, megasportsarena.com reports.
Itoje and his colleagues will aim to make repeat, exerting revenge on their boogey team, as The Lions aim to rewrite history all over again – rising from the doldrums of no-hoppers to the zenith of title challenges.
Indeed, ahead of England’s semi-final with New Zealand last week, they were firm underdogs. And they were so because of the brand and style of attacking rugby the All Blacks had produced.
Itoje did play a big role, as England produced one of their greatest performances to end New Zealand’s bid for a third successive World Cup as they totally outplayed the defending champions in an epic semi-final to win 19-7 on Saturday.
England dominated from first to last, looked sharper, faster, stronger and more disciplined in attack and fearsome in defence against a team who had not lost a World Cup match since the 2007 quarter-finals but who barely threatened all night.
The victory swept England into their fourth final and first since 2007, where they will seek their second victory after 2003 when they became the first, and still only, northern hemisphere country to triumph.
Born in Camden, London on 28 October 1994 to Nigerian parents, Oghenemaro Miles Itoje plays as a lock or as a blindside flanker for English Rugby Premiership club, Saracens and the national team.
He signed his first professional contract with Saracens in 2012, and made his first appearance the following year. He received his first-call up to the England team in 2016 ahead of the annual Six Nations Championship, and became a firm favourite to both Saracens and England fans.
He attended Salcombe Preparatory School in Southgate, North London at a primary level, before moving to St George’s School, Harpenden, a state boarding school in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, and later Harrow, a public school in the outer reaches of Greater London.
He studied for a Politics degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies in Bloomsbury, London at the same time as starting his rugby career.
As a schoolboy, Itoje played several sports including basketball, football, rugby and athletics, representing England at U17 level in shot put, but has so far in his rugby career won four English Premiership titles with Saracens, three European Rugby Champions Cups, and two Six Nations Championship titles.
Itoje represented England at U18 and captained the U20 team in the 2013–14 season, during which he scored a try in every 2014 Six Nations Under 20s Championship game and was England’s Man of the Tournament.
Also in 2014, Itoje won the 2014 IRB Junior World Championship with England, co-captaining the side throughout the tournament, and was called up to the England Saxons squad on 21 January 2015, then made his debut against Ireland Wolfhounds on 30 January 2015.
Itoje was selected for the England 2015 Rugby World Cup training squad and received his first call-up to the senior England squad from current coach, Eddie Jones on 13 January 2016 for the 2016 Six Nations Championship.
He went on to make his first-team debut against Italy and was named Man of the Match for his performance in the win against Wales on 12 March 2016, while England later went on to win the Grand Slam, after which Itoje also played a starring role in the summer series victory against Australia, starting all three Tests.
Itoje was again instrumental in England’s defence of the Six Nations in 2017, starting all five at blindside flanker rather than his more usual second row, after which he was selected for the British and Irish Lions for their tour of New Zealand.
Being the youngest player named in the 41-man squad, aged 22, was not a burden for him, nor a source of inferiority complex, as he went on to emerge as one of the standout players on the tour, scoring one try against Maori All Blacks.
It is now another day in history this Saturday, after Jones’ charges produced one of the greatest England performances of all time, clinching a spectacular 19-7 victory. But after the comedown from such a high, pressure arrives.
Under the radar last week, England’s players are firmly in the spotlight this, particularly after South Africa’s semi-final with Wales a day later failed to live up to the same standard.
There is a vastly different pressure coming into a game most expect you to win rather than hope you do, and the challenge on England is to make sure outside noise and expectation doesn’t negatively affect them.
Repeating a performance of such physicality and accuracy is difficult at the best of times, while The Boks won’t be wanting for belief and will much prefer coming into the final with less chatter around them.
The hunter could yet become the hunted if England are not careful because, while Courtney Lawes and Itoje ran the lineout superbly against the All Blacks, they are up against the best one in the tournament on Saturday.
With that in mind, Itoje warned England that the job wasn’t done yet after he inspired a stunning Rugby World Cup semifinal victory over New Zealand with a man-of-the-match performance on Saturday.
Itoje, who hounded New Zealand’s All Blacks at the breakdown and led the lineout figures with seven throws won, said England were building “week by week” as they seek their second world title in Yokohama next Saturday.
England will play either Wales or South Africa, who face off on Sunday, in Yokohama next week after their ruthless 19-7 victory over New Zealand, the two-time defending champions.
“It’s not really sinking in at the moment but we’re desperately excited, we’re really honoured to be here but the job isn’t quite done yet. We still have one more week of hard work and hopefully a big game next week as well,” Itoje concluded.