Get to know the Northampton Saint who represents Scotland U20 – Devante Onojaife

Northampton and Scotland U20 back-row Devante Onojaife

Date of birth 15 April 1998 Born Colchester Club Northampton Country Scotland Position Back-row

How long have you played rugby?

I was born in Essex but moved to Dubai when I was nine because of my dad’s job – he’s a chemical engineer – and I started playing when I was 12 as it was on the school curriculum. Before then I’d mainly played football.

How did you find it?

I didn’t know any rules and the first time I got the ball I ran the wrong way! I must have enjoyed it, though, as I kept doing it. When I was younger I was big for my age and was asked to tone it down in football. In rugby, I didn’t need to do that.

How did you get spotted by Northampton?

We used to come back from Dubai in the summer to see family and my mum found a rugby residency course at Stowe School. I went to a couple of trials and Saints asked me to come to a session with the U18s, then kept in contact. I went to Stowe for sixth form, played for the U18s both years and was lucky enough to get signed.

What positions have you played?

I started off in the back row, then switched to tighthead prop and now I’m back in the back row. I was signed by Northampton as a prop and I’d got into the England U18s as a prop.

How was the switch?

Tough. That first year at Saints I was developing and trying to be a prop, then I had a talk with Jim Mallinder and he saw me as a back-row. So I lost a bit of weight and worked on my conditioning. It was quite challenging. I played at Cambridge for two seasons, which helped me.

Your brother, Jordan, plays too…

He’s a lock at Ealing. We’re quite competitive but have always helped each other. He did the same process as me at Stowe.

How did representing Scotland come about?

I qualify through my grandmother, who was born in Edinburgh. I’m not sure how they found out but I played Scotland U18, England U18 and now Scotland U20.

What are your goals going forward?

I want to hit the ground running in pre-season. It’s my last year in the academy so it’s a big year to try to improve and we’ve got a new coach. He doesn’t know any of the players so we’re all starting from scratch; it’s a big chance for all of us.

What do you do off the field?

I study business management, specialising in marketing, with the Open University.

RW VERDICT: Onojaife cites his mum as the biggest influence on his career. Having settled at back-row and been part of Scotland’s U20 World Cup side, he’s looking to make a big impression on new Northampton coach Chris Boyd.

This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Rugby World magazine. Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.