England player Maro Itoje speaks to Sky Sports about his route into rugby, learning about black history, being inspired by Lewis Hamilton, and the significance of potentially being the first black British and Irish Lions captain. Itoje knew the subject of the Lions captaincy would come up in the interview. As much as he tried to deflect the conversation and move on, there is no escaping what a powerful image it would be for rugby, sport and society.
“Yeah, I think Anthony Watson will make a great captain!” Itoje said. “I do acknowledge how significant an event like that would be if it does happen but I guess fate will decide.”
“I think black people are often perceived to be very strong, very quick and they are attributes you put to a winger almost straight away or in at centre – if you are a bit stronger you might get chucked in the back row,” he said. “What it doesn’t promote is the exploration of an individual’s skill set. They may be really quick and they may be really strong and they may make a very good winger but they could make an unbelievable No 10 if you put a bit more time in.”
“My ambition is to do whatever it is to make my team win,” he said.
“I feel if your campaign or clamour for the role of captain, you are almost wanting it for the wrong reasons.” he continued. “I’ve had great captains and for me, it’s been a blessing to be around them because I think being around those as have made me a better leader and learn things about myself and be a better player.”