Maro Itoje NRFF scribe optimistic Nigeria-born player will win Breakthrough Player award

Itoje was nominated in that category by the World Rugby, alongside Anton Lienert-Brown of New Zealand and his compatriot, Ardie Savea.

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Maro Itoje

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Olatunji Fasimoye, the Technical Director, Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF), on Friday expressed optimism that Maro Itoje, the Nigerian-born British player would win the World Rugby Breakthrough Player award.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Itoje was nominated in that category by the World Rugby on Nov. 2, alongside Anton Lienert-Brown of New Zealand and his compatriot, Ardie Savea.

The 2016 World Rugby Awards dinner is scheduled for Nov. 13 at the Hilton London Metropole.

Fasimoye told NAN that Itoje had proved his mettle as a talented player which also earned him the European Player of the Year award early in 2016.

“I believe Maro will take the award considering that he captained the England U-20 team who won six-Nation Games in 2014.

“This made him to be immediately drafted to the European Saxton and also named European Player of the Year early this year. He is a talented player,’’ he said.

Fasimoye, who doubles as NRFF’s Vice-President, said it would be difficult to woo Itoje to play for Nigeria because he was discovered by England.

“Itoje was discovered by England and they really need him in their team, so, it will be difficult for him to play for Nigeria though rugby is fast developing here.’’

Reacting to other nominees for the World Rugby Team of the Year award, Fasimoye said he believed Fiji Island would win.

Others in the category are England and New Zealand.

“There is no dispute that Fiji Island will take the award, they have been outstanding since Ben Ryan took over their coaching in 2013,’’ he said.

He added that for Nigerian Rugby to be given such international recognition, a conscious planning of 10 to 15 years was needed.

“To be honest, it will take 10 to 15 years planning before we can attain that cadre of international recognition.

“We have dedicated and talented players but we need sponsors, the government and corporate bodies need to invest in the sport,’’ he said. 

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