Rugby veteran Junichi Okada names England LO Itoje as the person he would most like to meet in this world… | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Rugby veteran Junichi Okada names England LO Itoje as the person he would most like to meet in this world…

This man is the key man of the England team that Japan will play on the 18th at the Rugby World Cup.

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Junichi Okada, an experienced rugby player, was a guest on NHK, which broadcast the first World Cup match against Chile live, and asked questions of former national team player Ayumi Goromaru (PHOTO: Yusuke Kondo)

On Sunday, September 17, the Japanese national rugby team (ranked 14th in the world), currently competing in the Rugby World Cup (World Cup) in France, will challenge England (ranked 6th in the world) in their second qualifying pool match. The Japanese team has now won seven straight games in the World Cup qualifying pool, and a win would be a major step forward in their bid to advance to the final tournament.

However, England, the “Home of Rugby,” is the only team in the northern hemisphere to have won the World Cup, and was the runner-up in the previous tournament as well. One of the key players in the England national team’s FW, which has traditionally shown strength in physicality and set plays, is LO/FL Maro Itoje (28 years old).

Speaking of Itoje, in a TBS “Monitoring” broadcast last September, actor Junichi Okada, who has played rugby, was asked, “Who in this world would you most like to meet? Okada was asked “Who in the world would you like to meet the most?” to which he immediately replied, “I would like to meet Maro Itoje. Okada described Itoje as “strong, fast, tough, and smart. He is England’s greatest treasure.

Known for his ability in both the literary and military arts, Itoje is also known as “Supermalo” in rugby, and is one of the most physically gifted players on the world rugby scene.

Both of his parents are Nigerian immigrants, and in addition to rugby, he played soccer as a youth, was the top level of his generation in England in the 200m short distance in track and field, and has also represented England U17 in basketball and the shot put.

In 2014, he was captain of the U20 England squad and played a major role in helping the U20 generation win the world championship. When he joined the powerful club Saracens, he developed under the guidance of then-current LO Steve Borthwick (current England HC) and made his professional debut at the age of 19.

Then, in 2016, HC Eddie Jones (now HC of Australia), who was leading England at the time, invited him to the Six Nations (Europe’s six powerhouse nations) for the first time at the age of 21, speaking as follows.

He was the first 21-year-old to be invited to the national team. “In rugby, you need more worldly smarts to succeed than academic smarts,” Jones said. There are many tougher locks than Maro Itoje, and in Test rugby you have to be tough. But I have never seen a lock as gifted as he is. He has the potential to be a special player.”

After winning his first cap against Italy that year and winning the World Rugby Rookie of the Year award, he earned a position at the heart of the England national team’s FW and has more than 70 caps for the national team. He was also a key player in the 2019 World Cup in Japan, helping England to a runner-up finish.

Naturally, he was selected for England’s second championship in 2023, and despite his height of 195 cm and weight of 115 kg, he can also play as a FL, showing his strength in athleticism, physicality, and also in aerial combat.

Itoje is a nimble runner who does not look like a 195 cm, 115 kg (Photo: Afro)

Itoje has also shown his talents outside of rugby without regret. He was nicknamed “Pearl” after a friend told him he looked like a black pearl when he wore a black turtleneck sweater as a child, and grew up as the middle of three siblings in a well-educated family where both parents of Nigerian descent hold master’s degrees.

At the age of 12, he received a scholarship to Harrow School, a prestigious boarding school. He continued his studies alongside his athletic career, even after he was selected to play professional rugby for Saracens.

‘I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I don’t watch much TV. All my teammates play Fortnite, but I don’t play games. From a young age, my parents taught me the importance of education, and I continued my studies at university, thinking about what I would do after my rugby career was over. I consider my studies and rugby to be of equal value. I spend all my non-rugby time studying, and I still go to bed at 10:30 a.m.” (Itoje)

He went to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, one of the top universities in the U.K., famous for producing high-level bureaucrats, etc. He studied the relationship between foreign aid to African countries and their development, and wrote his graduation thesis. Although his graduation ceremony was delayed by a year due to his participation in the British & Irish Lions Expedition, he was able to attend. He also continued his studies after graduation and obtained an MBA this year.

His brother works for a major financial IT company, and his sister works to support women victims of domestic violence. Itoje himself has a strong interest in politics and actively shares his opinions through social networking sites. This year, she launched the “Pearl Fund” to support the education of children in Africa.

He is also active as a model for “Ralph Lauren” and “Marks & Spencer,” taking advantage of his 195cm height. Okada, who immediately named Itoje as someone he would like to meet, must have been attracted not only by his abilities as a rugby player, but also by his dedication to his studies and modeling.

Although the England team was in a slump just prior to the tournament, winning one game and losing three, Okada said, “The harder the team goes through, the more united they become. (Itoje said, “We want to achieve something special [as a team] and be a part of it,” and in the first match of the 2023 World Cup, England defeated Argentina 27-10 despite being one man short due to a red card early in the game, and are off to a good start for their second crown. The Japan national rugby team is off to a good start toward their second World Cup crown.

If Japan’s national rugby team is to beat its “home” team, England, and move closer to the top eight, it will have to stop “Supermalo,” who is a man of both literary and military prowess!

Itoje attacks his opponent in their match against Ireland in the European powerhouse 6 Nations tournament.
  • Interview and text Kenjin Saito

    Born in 1975. He is a sports writer who covers and writes for magazines and websites, focusing on rugby and soccer. He has covered the World Cup for five consecutive years until the 2019 tournament. He covered all 57 matches of the last World Cup, when Japan was coached by Eddie Jones. His recent books include "Rugby Language Dictionary" (Seibundo Shinkosha) and "Rugby Spectator's Guide" (Kairyusha). In high school, he played as a strong tackling FB.

  • PHOTO Yusuke Kondo (Junichi Okada)

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