Maro Itoje, student first, rugby superstar second, covers The Times Magazine

in Athletes

Maro Itoje is being hailed as the next big thing in world rugby, but first he has a politics degree to finish.

Ben Machell interviews ‘the chosen one’ for The Times Magazine. Tom Jackson provides the images.

Rugby is obviously a big part of my life, and is a very important part of my life. But I feel as if it doesn’t or shouldn’t define me as a person. I have other interests; other avenues that I’m interested in. Nigerian culture doesn’t pay too much attention to sport. It’s all about education. It’s all about making sure you succeed academically. So when I was playing rugby my parents said it was fine, so long as it didn’t mess with my studies.

Maro had to sit an exam just a few days ago, right in the middle of his preparation for the European Cup final.

I didn’t have the pressure of becoming a professional rugby player. My pressure was to make sure that my rugby doesn’t affect my academic career. You have to find the mental energy to read or revise or write that essay. Because you have got to get it done if you want that degree.

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