Back in 2008 Topsy had just been called up to the England squad and his talent was shining through, we nabbed half an hour of his time to talk about superstitions, his ever-changing idea of the ideal woman, initiations he may face on tour and completing his law degree.
RUGBY WORLD: Well done on your England call-up. How did you find out?
TOPSY OJO: Toby Booth told me the day before it was announced. He’s involved with the Saxons so had been part of the selection meeting and, as he’d been my mentor in the London Irish academy, he wanted to call me. I think he’s quite proud. It’s unbelievable to be honest. I wasn’t expecting to get picked, but going on tour to New Zealand is going to be a great experience.
RW: Are you worried about any initiations you might have to do?
TO: I’m dreading singing on the bus if I get my first cap. The pressure will be horrible, standing up to reel out a song – you’ll be heckled straightaway. It might be more nerve-racking than actually playing a game.
RW: So who are the jokers at Irish?
TO: Nick Kennedy, Nils Mordt and Paul Hodgson. The banter is non-stop and there’s the occasional practical joke. The last one was covering Nick’s car in wrapping paper. Everyone was in on it and at our Christmas dinner a few of us went out to give him a little present!
RW: What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen or heard on the pitch?
TO: Referees getting wiped out by players is always amusing. One of our guys, Stuart Mackie, was running a hard line in a league match and went straight into the ref, who went flying about ten metres and fell on his head. I get a good view of things like that from the wing. It’s good to have a comedy moment before we start beating each other up.
RW: What about any sledging or memorable team talks?
TO: Bob Casey’s talks are legendary, he always knows what to say at the right time. I remember a few times, though, he’s asked someone else to add a little bit and once he asked Steffon Armitage if he had any key points to make that day. We were all in this huddle trying to get our minds focused on the game, and Steff said: “Let’s just go out and have a good time”!
Michael Jordan, Nicknames and life outside Rugby…
RW: If your house was on fire, what three things would you save?
TO: My phone, my iPod – I’m listening to Kanye West and Estelle at the moment – and my car keys. At least then I’d have somewhere to go afterwards.
RW: Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
TO: Michael Jordan. I’m not as big a basketball fan as I was but he’s a legend.
RW: Do you have any superstitions?
TO: There is something I’ve just started doing: having my socks down for the warm-up. I pull them up for the start of the game, though they usually end up down for the second half. I’m not really superstitious but it’s been working, so I’ll keep doing it until I get bored.
RW: Do you have any nicknames?
TO: Too many to list. At the moment people are just calling me ‘T’ because they can’t be bothered to say my whole name. People at Irish also like to put an apostrophe after the ‘o’ in my surname to make it look like I have Irish heritage.
RW: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
TO: Flying. It would be great to just be able to take off to wherever I wanted to.
RW: Is there anything you would like to achieve outside of rugby?
TO: To complete my law degree. I’m in my second year, part-time. It’s hard but the uni are accommodating. I do what I can. It’s also an ambition to open a bar.
RW: Who’s your ideal woman?
TO: Who do I like at the moment?
RW: Does it change week by week?
TO: No, month by month – joking! Scarlett Johansson.
Heres what happens when you get in his way…
Learn more about Topsy’s teammates at London Irish…Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.