By Graham Cox
As Blackheath took advantage of a well-deserved break in their National League One rugby schedule to relax in front of a full round of Six Nations matches, there was one of their number who enjoyed Scotland’s 25-13 victory over England in the Calcutta Cup a little more than most of his colleagues.
Chukwuma Osazuwa isn’t actually from north of the border, though you’d be very much forgiven for thinking he was.
In fact Chukwuma, or CJ as he prefers to be known, was born in Lagos, but if you were to Google the 6foot 5inches-tall Blackheath second-row you’d find much of his life has been spent north of Hadrian’s Wall, and some life it has been.
Having moved from Nigeria to Scotland when he was just six, Osazuwa first picked up a rugby ball a handful of years later while attending Edinburgh Academy.
A naturally-gifted sportsman with an athletic build, he excelled at volleyball and cricket, gaining representative honours at both, but when a place at Northampton Saints Academy beckoned in 2001, it was rugby where he first looked to specialise.
“I was there for about eight months, but then it scaled back and focussed on a smaller elite squad and I left,” said CJ.
“I also just missed out on a Scotland under-18 cap, despite making the squad, so I decided to try my luck at something else.”
Osazuwa returned to Scotland and indulged himself in another sport at which he excelled, becoming a semi-professional footballer.
Over a six-year period, he had spells with Dunbar, Haddington and Musselburgh – who he helped to three junior football trophies – scoring plenty of goals, playing either up front or midfield, while at the same time attending Edinburgh University to study sociology.
In 2008 a chance decision took him back to his preferred, oval ball, code.
“Rugby pre-season starts sooner than football, so I joined a close friend at Heriot’s FP to get in some early training,” he said. “They made me feel so welcome, and I enjoyed it so much, I opted to stay.”
After almost six years with Herriot’s Osazuwa moved south, initially joining Richmond, before spending last season making 26 appearances and scoring eight tries for Chinnor. When the Oxfordshire side narrowly missed out on promotion from National League Two South, he decided to step up to the next level anyway with Blackheath.
“Being friends with Pickers (Alex Pickersgill) I knew how much he was enjoying life at Blackheath,” continued Osazuwa, who has picked up five caps for the full Nigeria national side and, as a keen Sevens player who recently competed in Dubai for the Waterboys, has an additional 19 appearances for the country of his birth in the shorter form of the game.
“It took just a few minutes on the phone to James Shanahan to convince me. I took quickly to his vision and style of play.”
Osazuwa’s partner, Fern is a keen netball player and cricketer with representative honours. The couple plan to marry this summer.
“If I’m not participating, or out watching, then I’m always surfing the TV channels for sport,” continued the ardent Liverpool supporter. Someday I’ll stop playing, but I’ll find some way to keep involved. I can’t envisage a life without it.”
Fortunately, Osazuwa not quite ready to pack up just yet and will feature in the line-up this Saturday when Blackheath make their first ever league visit to Silver Leys to take on Bishop’s Stortford, the side who inflicted the Club’s first home defeat of the current campaign in November.
A week later, on Saturday March 10, Osazuwa will be on home soil when Blackheath welcome Fylde to Well Hall in Kidbrooke Lane, a match which will be followed by the live screening of France v England in the clubhouse.