Article courtesy of The Times, 

As a child, I sang and wanted to act Rugby is not something people aspire to from a Nigerian background and a Nigerian household. At primary school I barely knew what rugby was. At that time I was much more concerned with football. I enjoyed singing, I enjoyed being in the school choir. I thought as a young, young kid that acting was a piece of cake. I saw movies and thought, “that must be so easy”. Life hits you and reality hits you and you come down to planet earth.

My breakthrough was at 15 I probably thought at the age of 15 that I wanted to be a professional rugby player. At 15 I was training a lot especially in the summer. That is the type of age when all your friends start going out by themselves without parental guidance. All of our friends were going out doing things and meeting up and there was me just going to training. I enjoyed training but I felt that I was missing out on a lot of that social time. I made the choice that rugby was the path I wanted to go down.

I loved being a boarder There wasn’t a massive cultural shift going to St George’s. It was very leafy, very green, but the biggest change was that I went from a day pupil to boarding and that brings its own dynamic — but I loved it. You’re with your friends 24-7, every week, every weekend. You’re with people you really care about. We had a group that enjoyed each other’s company and we are still best of friends.

I liked history, but not geography Naturally I enjoyed PE because that came very easily to me. I really enjoyed history and religious education. When I started studying politics I really enjoyed that and I really enjoyed economics. I didn’t like geography. I was good at science but I didn’t enjoy it. There were a lot of things I liked. I didn’t enjoy maths straightaway but as I got older I got better and I started to enjoy it more. We used to go to a maths tutor Mr Edwards in Canons Park every Thursday and then back. They’d leave dinner for us to eat when we got back.

Old friends are the best I value the friends I had when I was at school, especially the tight core of us because they were my friends when I was just “Maro”. They know me, they see me as “Maro”. They are the ones who truly know who I am. They have no agenda. They have a genuine care for me, so I hold them in very high regard. I hope in whatever way I can thank them. They are my friends. For a lot of things they keep me sane as well. It’s a big bad world and you need people to talk to. I’m very fortunate to have a core group of friends who I rely on. I feel as if I don’t need any more friends. This might be a bit ignorant of me to say, but if I don’t make any more friends for the rest of my life I think I will be OK as long as I keep the ones I have.

I learnt humility from my parents I come from a fairly tight-knit family and in Nigerian culture, family is very important. My mum and dad, my sister, my brother all have a special place in my heart. They are all incredibly crucial to the person I am today. I have learnt about patience, about humility, about work ethic. I have learnt about being the best I can and have an inquisitive mind and learn. My family have done incredible amounts to shape my world view.

I’ve still not cracked it I never feel like I’ve made it. It’s not like something where you crack the code and you feel like you’ve got it. Even now I don’t feel content. I still think there’s much more that I can do and much more that I can achieve. Once I played for England I thought, “this is something I have been working towards since I started playing rugby at the age of 11”.

I try to stay level-headed I always like to think things through before acting in a certain way. When you act on impulse sometimes you get things wrong. It goes back to the network I have around me. Everyone keeps my feet on the ground.

Please stay away in 2023 The mood in and around the [World Cup] camp was like what only I could imagine a high-level event would be like for celebrities. It was cool, it was enjoyable, it was a bit stressful. You guys were my bad luck charm. Everything was good until you guys came out for the final. In 2023 stay at home.

When I’m not playing rugby I love podcasts, I love listening to audio books, I love African art, in particular Nigerian art. I’m a sports fan, so besides rugby, I pay attention to basketball. I’m an Arsenal fan. But even just little things when I’m chilling out, I like to watch Netflix and catch up on a series. I’m interested in politics and I’m probably going to start studying again soon. That’s going to take up a lot of time as well. But if there’s a will there’s a way, so I’m sure I will be fine. I think this year is all about progressing as a person, being a more holistic person, expanding my knowledge and different areas of interest. Organise myself in ways that can be productive. And most importantly keep having fun and enjoying my life and by God’s grace keep achieving.