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Chris Oti

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BornLondon, June 16 1965
Internationals13 caps between 1988 and 1991
InductedEngland v Ireland (March 6, 2004)

The following article has been adapted from the original by Dai Llewellyn, which focused on two players. It has been changed to highlight only the selected inductee’s information.

The England rugby anthem ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ began with an ‘o’ and a ‘t’ and quickly caught the rugby public’s imagination. The year was 1988 and Ireland were at Twickenham. So was a certain Cambridge University student.

The ‘o’ and ‘t’ in question was the then England winger Chris Oti. It was his second appearance in an England shirt and he marked his Twickenham debut in spectacular style by scoring a hat-trick.

The grace and pace of the London Wasps threequarter as he helped himself to the three touchdowns in the second half of a remarkable game prompted a section of the crowd to begin singing the spiritual after Oti’s second try.

The song had been adopted in rugby clubs the length and breadth of the England, and was sung in accompaniment to a series of suggestive (and in some cases downright crude) gestures. It invariably wound up being hummed to the various hand signals. Fortunately it was the spirit of the song and not its crudity that appealed on that March afternoon.

These days Oti, who won just 13 caps, the last of them against Italy in the 1991 Rugby World Cup, is reluctant to step into the limelight and give interviews.

But in a previous chat he did admit: “I don’t think I ever fulfilled my potential. I felt I could have done a lot better. But the hat-trick was a marvellous thing to have achieved.”

No one can ever doubt that Oti’s hat-trick was something special. Until his first try England had not scored one in their three previous Championship matches. In addition to Oti’s treble there were two tries for the other wing Rory Underwood, the second of which was absolute cracker.

“That was a self-belief among the players. When we started scoring tries they came so easily and England certainly went on to achieve greater things.”

Oti has always played down his own contribution, claiming: “Rory scored two brilliant tries.” True, but Oti’s were also very special. Something else mattered more to him about the occasion. “I think that I contributed something else that day,” said Oti, the first black player since James Peters (1906-07) to wear and England shirt.

Whether he should have received more recognition and more caps is immaterial, but with his elevation to the Wall of Fame, Oti will never be forgotten by the game.

Article by Dai Llewellyn


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