UK Education Secretary holds meeting with Maro Itoje and thinks he's speaking to Man Utd star Marcus Rashford

By Jon Doel

UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has come under attack after appearing to confuse England and Lions rugby star Maro Itoje with Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford.

Mr Williamson heaped praise on Rashford after a video conference call, telling the Evening Standard : "We met over Zoom and he seemed incredibly engaged, compassionate and charming but then he had to shoot off.

"I didn’t want to be the one that was holding him back from his training."

But his advisors later clarified he had actually been speaking to Itoje, who campaigned for millions of youngsters to get access to laptops during lockdown.

Reacting to the story with a laughing emoji, Rashford, who is from Manchester rather than Itoje's home city of London, tweeted: “Accent could have been a giveaway”.

Itoje posted: "Due to recent speculation I thought it was necessary to confirm that I am not Marcus Rashford… And whilst we are here my name is not Mario either!! Just a simple Maro Itoje will do…

"Much love,

"Marcu… I mean Maro Itoje."

Itoje has campaigned to close the "digital divide", helping more school-age children gain access to laptops and tablets.

The gaffe comes after Rashford's passionate campaign to convince the UK Government to offer free meals to children who need them during the school holidays, as is the case in Wales.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has continued to publicly praise Williamson despite heavy criticism of his handling of education during the pandemic.

Asked if the PM ’s praise for Mr Williamson today still stood despite the mix-up, his press secretary said: “I haven’t seen those comments”.

Asked if it was racist to mix up two men who do not look alike, she replied: “I haven’t seen that.”

Marcus Rashford (PA Images)

A spokesperson for Rashford told Sky News: "Marcus's consistent ask to those in power has been collaboration.

"More often than not this ask is rebuffed. Maro and Marcus are two incredibly successful young black men, but there is little more they have in common."

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy wrote on Twitter: "This is appalling. Gavin Williamson what was it about Maro Itoje that made you mistake him for Marcus Rashford?

"You must be the most ignorant, clueless and incapable Education Secretary in the UK's history."

For the latest rugby news, interviews and analysis sent straight to your inbox, you can sign up to our Welsh rugby newsletter here.


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.