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Ojo thinks of England - Rugby - European Cup
Rugby - European Cup

Ojo hopes for England call

Topsy Ojo hopes his headline act in London Irish's painful Heineken Cup exit proves he has the x-factor demanded by England.

The Exiles' unexpected march through Europe was halted with their 21-15 semi-final defeat by Toulouse at Twickenham but Ojo emerged with his reputation enhanced.

The 22-year-old, assisted by some feeble defending from Jean-Baptiste Elissalde and Cedric Heymans, conjured a stunning solo try that underlined his explosive attacking skills.

From a standing start and with little room to manoeuvre, he dashed past Elissalde on the outside before using his pace to dance through a non-committal Heymans.

A threat all afternoon, he was named man of the match and the next ambition for the lightening-quick winger is to be recognised by Martin Johnson's England.

Ojo, who toured South Africa last summer but failed to make his Test debut, hopes his Heineken Cup heroics have landed him a place on the plane for New Zealand in June.

"There's a lot of talented young English wingers out there," he said.

"I've got to do my basics right but when it comes to breaking into the senior squad, it's that little bit extra that you need to set you apart.

"You need to show the coaches that you have something different. I need to keep doing what I've been doing, like against Toulouse.

"I'm happy with the way things went against Toulouse. I think I'm ready for international rugby but all I can do is keep playing well.

"It's occasions like Heineken Cup semi-finals that get players noticed."

Injury-stricken Toulouse's pedigree - they have now reached their fifth final in Europe's prestige club competition - eventually told but Irish pushed them desperately close.

The French aristocrats were on the ropes in the closing stages but Irish could not finish them off and later mourned what they viewed as a glorious opportunity wasted.

Their run to the last four has left them craving further Heineken Cup exposure but their lowly position in the Guinness Premiership means they could miss out next season.

"The club is going in the right direction and we just need to regroup now," said Ojo.

"We need to look at the areas we need to improve in and see if we need to bring any new players in.

"The club wants more days like these and we'll do anything in our power to get back in the competition."

Sweltering conditions at Twickenham contributed to a magnificent contest that Toulouse's former New Zealand scrum-half Byron Kelleher felt more than matched the standard of the Super 14.

European rugby has traditionally been denied the recognition it deserves Down Under but Kelleher, who joined Toulouse after the World Cup, has been forced to reassess his own views.

"I've always scratched my head and wondered what northern hemisphere rugby is all about," he said.

"But in dry conditions I've realised it's not very different to the level of the Super 14. In fact, it's more like Test rugby.

"There was a lot of skill on show in our semi-final. The spirit of rugby was there with both teams looking to create chances.

"If anyone back home thinks northern hemisphere rugby is boring, I can tell them it's not.

"It's more of a marathon than a sprint up here and that's means you have to test yourself mentally and physically."

Sporting Life -