Gabriel Oghre is a particularly striking young Englishman at Wasps – and not just because he plays a whore.
For this interview, he’s wearing a new pair of sneakers, sparkling white Nike Airs with multicolored styles. His last pair were stolen, along with his old car. He says he was probably more annoyed about the disappearance of his treads.
“Just got these,” Oghre beams proudly, dressed in cargo shorts and a two-tone patterned hoodie. ‘I love the colours!’
Gabriel Oghre has never looked back after learning about rugby after football passed him by
Oghre seems to embody a young, vibrant wasp crew. In their new £4 million Elite Performance and Innovation Centre, the senior locker room has playful, modern touches.
Above a cabinet is a gold statue of a dog that Marcus Watson supported at Elliott Stooke Castle. Another hangs a mini basketball ring that whore Dan Frost kept as a trophy after being the only one to sink a basket through it when the challenge was taken. Most notable of all is a reed diffuser filled with essential oils placed near Joe Launchbury’s corner.
“That’s mine!” laughs Oghre, after apologizing for the softness of his handshake, and admitting he just wet his palms. “It must smell good!”
Oghre looks at an England cap after being invited to their summer camp for the first time
You can’t imagine Simon Shaw and Lawrence Dallaglio arguing over the scents of jojoba or patchouli, but the game and its players have moved with the times. For Oghre, embracing difference is important.
“The most important thing I’ve overcome in rugby, which Wasps has been really good at, is being yourself rather than fitting into a mold,” says the 23-year-old. ‘There are different kinds of people with different personalities.
“I’m outgoing, I’m energetic, but that doesn’t mean I won’t work hard, know what I need and put the team first.”
He was born in West London in 1998 to father Taiwo, a rental agent from Nigeria, and mother Sue, who owns a vegan shop in Bath. He got the middle name Oghenetega – ‘child of God’ – from his uncle.
‘My mother said he could choose it, as long as it didn’t start with an O, because it’s my last name. And then he came up with that!’ Oger laughs. As a British Nigerian – a diaspora that English rugby is making quick and prolific use of – Oghre proudly steps behind Ugo Monye, Maro Itoje and Beno Obano as the latest of West African descent to change the face of the game.
Oghre played openside flanker against Bristol but his future looks destined as a whore
“It’s great,” he says. “You have to thank the guys who set up the platform and allow us to get through. We need to involve different people in rugby – not just players, you see people like Ugo commenting and dancing to Strictly! I like to see that, not just one type of person who does the sport.
“I don’t know Maro personally, but he’s a great rugby player, so how can anyone say he’s not doing well because he’s acting a certain way and being himself? The same goes for Lewis Hamilton.
‘It is definitely making strides now. At Wasps we have a very diverse club, and some of the stuff they post on social media shows they are on board. It allows people to be who they want to be.’
Perhaps typical of British Nigerians, football – rather than rugby – was Oghre’s first love.
“Growing up in London, there weren’t many rugby options, much more in football,” explains Oghre, an Arsenal fan who idolized Thierry Henry.
“It’s hard to believe because I was a fat kid, but I played as a central midfielder. The General, pull the strings! I played for a team called Magic in London but then moved to Bath and buzzed when my mom said “Gabe, there’s a team here called Bath Arsenal!” Have a nice day, take me in, I told her.’
While at Beechen Cliff School, he immersed himself in rugby on the advice of teachers and friends. But when he was at Bath Arsenal, he would wander to the Walcot rugby club after the games – first to look, but soon got caught up in it. ‘I started playing football on Saturday, rugby on Sunday,’ Oghre continues.
Oghre is an energetic player who made quite an impression during his time at Wasps
Oghre idolized Thierry Henry growing up when he was initially looking for football
“The environment at Walcot was really homely, there was a huge team bond. I started thinking, ‘This is the ultimate team sport’ and fell in love with rugby.’
Oghre later attended a trial at Bristol Rovers but found that football had passed him by. ‘Frankly, I was so out of my depth. When I was 13, I was still a chubby kid and I thought, “I used to pull strings, what’s going on now?”‘ he laughs.
Oghre is a bundle of energy as a player. He played openside flanker in the 44-8 win over Bristol last weekend – and will do so again against Newcastle on Saturday – but is destined to continue as a whore. He has also played centrally, with mixed results.
‘The Premiership Half 2020!’ he exclaims, amid flashbacks. “We went for a six-two bench split and two backs went down early, then Jacob Umaga too.
Oghre has his eyes opened by Eddie Jones who sent the youngster a book on the psychology of sport
“They said to me, ‘You’re leaving at 12 noon’. I was like, “Twenty minutes into a semi-final? When I watch Semi Radradra, I don’t know!”’
It is this hybrid talent that saw Oghre participate in England’s summer camp and return to the squad this week. Oghre was still impressed when he was added to the official WhatsApp group in England in bed last week, but now he is eager to win caps, after Eddie Jones opened his eyes.
The English coach sent Oghre The Inner Game of Tennis, a book on the psychology of sports, cited as Billy Jean King’s “bible.” Oghre has bent over backwards and transferred his messages to his lineout throwing.
“It really helped,” he says. “I’ve started working on my breathing, controlling my heart rate in moments of pressure, and not thinking too much, letting your body do what you’ve been practicing, muscle memory instead of tensing.”
With wasps, just like with Oghre, release the tension and watch them go.