Maro Itoje: England star talks Brexit, podcasts and the class divide in rugby 3 years ago

Maro Itoje: England star talks Brexit, podcasts and the class divide in rugby

Ahead of the London derby between Saracens and Harlequins, JOE caught up with Maro Itoje

Itoje is one of the first names on both the Saracens and England team sheet, impressing in virtually every outing for Eddie Jones' side although his Six Nations campaign was unfortunately cut short by injury.

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A star on the pitch, Camden-born Itoje is also an A-grade student off it too.

Itoje in training with England coach Eddie Jones (Photo: Getty Images)
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He studied for a Politics degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), so talk naturally turned to the hostile climate within British politics. Itoje said:

"I have a big interest in politics, especially what's going on now - it's both fascinating and crazy."

JOE: Do you back a People's Vote on Brexit?

Maro Itoje: "Individually, I would probably like a People's Vote - for my own selfish reasons - but I think that would be divisive so I don't really think it's going to happen.

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"But if it was going to happen, I'd be all for it."

Do you agree with Ellis Genge's comments that there's a class divide within rugby?

"With England's age-grade teams, the best players normally play for the best public schools.

"That's partly because they're poached, but also maybe because we haven't found ways of reaching out and getting players who play for their local club and not a big school.

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"If you look at selection for the age-grade teams, a lot of them really do congregate from the same sort of schools - the Etons, Wellingtons and Harrows of this world. That's not to say there isn't a reach out beyond this, but you've got a much higher chance of making it from one those schools rather than a state school."

Itoje says Saracens are involved in a lot of community work to ensure local talent doesn't fall to the wayside.

"We have quite an active community programme - our foundation has won numerous awards. We're the only rugby club potentially in the world to have our own school. It's in Grahame Park in north London, a very deprived area."

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Can you see yourself moving into politics once you've hung your boots up?

"At this stage, I don't really see that happening. I don't see myself running for public office at the moment - but all these things are subject to change."

You're a huge podcast fan - what ones are you listening to at the moment?

"My sister actually just started a podcast called Screaming In A Mini Cooper so I make sure I listen to that.

"I like political podcasts, social sciences and ones that talk about social issues. I like About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge plus James O'Brien's new one and Political Thinking with Nick Robinson."

Have you listened to JOE's own Unfiltered?

"I've watched a couple on YouTube, the one with Alastair Campbell and the one with Akala. I'm a big fan of Akala as well."

Watch Akala's Unfiltered interview below:

Who would be your three dream dinner guests - dead or alive?

"I would pick Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Jay-Jay Okocha. He's in there, my Nigerian brother!"

Who's the toughest opponent you've faced this season?

"For me it's always those quick guys you can't quite get a hold of. I'm not sure if I've played him this year but Piatau (Salesi, Bristol fullback) is a real handful."

Itoje's club side Saracens sit in second place in the Gallagher Premiership, ten points clear of London rivals Harlequins.

Itoje closes down a box kick from Harlequins scrum half Danny Care. The two sides square up again this Saturday on BT Sport (Photo: Getty Images)

Coming out on top in the derby won't come easy, Itoje says, despite the 10-point gap separating the two sides.

"Quins are a top team and they've improved immeasurably under Guzzy (Paul Gustard). It'll be a niggly, physical game but if we play well we'll come out on top."

Watch Saracens v Harlequins this Saturday at 2:30pm, exclusively live on BT Sport 1 and the BT Sport app