Topsy Ojo 200 Not out

It's been some week for Topsy Ojo. On Wednesday the winger announced a new three year deal with the Exiles, and on Saturday he will be making his 200th appearance for the Club, against the team who were the opposition on his debut. All this in the middle of his Testimonial season - What a week? What a career! And there is plenty more to come....

The 28-year-old is in his 11th season with London Irish after joining the Club from Dartford Grammar School in Kent, he has since gone on to become an established starting player for London Irish and now his 200th game is only two days away.

Awareness of this milestone has crept up on the speedster’s radar in recent weeks with a certain teammate competing to reach the milestone before him.

“I’ve been aware of it because Paicey (David Paice) has been trying to catch me. He’s known that he is only a few games behind me so he’s mentioned it a few times. The magnitude of the game itself hasn’t changed my preparations in any way. It’s a great achievement and I’m looking forward to celebrating it, but, my biggest thing is four points. Four points makes the day 10 times better.”

It was at Madejski Stadium in 2005 that Topsy made his debut for the Exiles, coming off the bench to make an immediate impact. “I came on at half time, I was actually meant to be playing two weeks previous, but I had to pull out because I was injured, so I was obviously quite excited to be involved, and then to come on and was brilliant. Shortly after I came onto the field Delon Armitage put a kick through for me and I caught it and touched down just by the posts. It was quite a surreal way to kick off the career and ever since it has been great experience. It’s full circle, coming back for my 200th against Wasps on Saturday. Hopefully there is a similar personal performance and we get the result too.”

The back three positions have traditionally been one of the most fiercely competitive at the Club over the last decade and right now is no exception. With Marland Yarde and James O’Connor now on the scene as well as the likes of Alex Lewington, Andrew Fenby and of course Sailosi Tagicakibau who is still scaring defences, competition for a starting berth is as difficult as ever.

“I’d say this is as strong a back three I have played with during my time here. When I first started I was alongside Delon and Losi (Sailosi Tagicakibau), and the way we clicked, gelled and played as a unit, at times it was almost telepathic the way we fed off each other and played off each other. We all had the same sort of mindset in the game to be attacking and to score tries and it is exactly the same now.

“Marland has had an unreal 18 months, where he has got to the top with England and he is playing really well and James is nearly a 50 cap International and can play anywhere on the pitch, but as a fullback or winger he is unbelievably dangerous and likes to score tries. It’s the same with other boys as well, Alex Lewington, Andrew Fenby again, both have come here with really good reputations to score tries and to just play attacking rugby so I definitely think we are as strong as we have ever been in the back three and as competitive.”

Since 2003, he has played an increasingly prominent part as the club have gone onto play in Heineken Cup semi-finals and premiership finals, not to mention a couple of 7s triumphs and International honours too. So to ask the man, who turned 28 in the summer, his finest moment takes him awhile to answer.

Finally he says “Maybe two, obviously winning player of the year in 2010 was a big moment in terms of consistency across a whole season and to be recognised by my peers was quite big. The other would probably be the game against Toulouse as well, we lost the game but we played some unbelievable rugby on the day. Personally I think that was probably the game that put me in the England team for New Zealand.”

For all the matches he has gone through the flyer has a remarkable ability to recall stories from almost every year, although when thoughts turn to his funniest moment, there is only one winner and I’m sure all of those reading this will be able to pre-empt what he is going to say...
“There are funny moments every day. I’d have to say, and everyone will know - Juan Leiguzamon’s swan dive where he drops the ball. I wasn’t too far away from it at the time and you think ‘yes it’s a try’ and then all of a sudden, he loses the ball. It’s been played countless times for obvious reasons. Unforgettable.”

For all the dedication needed to stay in shape for elite rugby, Ojo has credited his ability to play so much rugby down to hard work and good fortune. “To play so many games you need that bit of luck on your side. When I was injured in 2009 I was a terrible spectator and I have been fortunate in that I haven’t been in that position too often.“

So with all these records and achievements, what does the future hold for Mr Ojo, well...

“This year has seen a lot of change, I’ve grown up a bit, got married to Jenny, our first child is on the way, the Testimonial, 200 games and the try scoring record so it has already been busy, but the future is more of the same. I’m keen to keep pushing now and see how many more things I can achieve. Now the target is can I get to 250 games? Can I get back in the England team? Can I keep the try scoring record for as many years as possible? I’d like to keep it for a long, long time.

“For the Club itself - can we kick on? I feel we have steadied the ship and we now need the results to back that up, but I’m confident that will come with the guys that have re-signed before me and hopefully with the guys that will sign after me. The squad is now getting stronger and stronger and hopefully we can build on that this year and next. We are moving to a new training facility as well so the future is looking good.”

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Harlequins
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Saturday 06 Sep 2014
KO: 16:30

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