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Speaking to the Evening Standard, the Education Secretary mixed up the sports stars when he claimed to have met Mr Rashford while he had actually crossed paths with Mr Itoje.
The error – which Mr Williamson admitted was a “genuine mistake” – sparked huge conversation online on Wednesday as both Mr Rashford and Mr Itoje poked fun at the blunder.
Social media was awash with hilarious memes where Twitter users wrote about Mr Williamson meeting a celebrity or well known figure in the caption but instead picturing another.
Among the comments, one person wrote: “Gavin Williamson and the day he met Paul Weller.”
Gavin Williamson and the day he met Paul Weller pic.twitter.com/eBPAc3RNc5
— Dave (@Guinnessta) September 8, 2021
Others added: “Gavin Williamson fondly remembers the day he met Black Beauty #GavinWilliamson.”
“Gavin Williamson the day he thought he met Larry, the number 10 Cat.”
— Unicorn 3.5% 🏴 🇪🇺 (@LenoreSimson) September 8, 2021
“Gavin Williamson on the day he met Darth Vader.”
Mr Williamson has since spoken out to say he has huge respect for both Mr Rashford and Mr Itoje as well as their inspiring campaigns.
Gavin Williamson the day he thought he met Larry, the number 10 Cat pic.twitter.com/EUbbiM2Wi8
— Cantona & Best (@bestcanton7) September 8, 2021
“Towards the end of a wide-ranging interview in which I talked about both the laptops and school meals campaigns, I conflated the issues and made a genuine mistake,” he said.
“We corrected this with the journalist before publication of the story. I have huge respect for both Marcus Rashford and Maro Itoje who run effective and inspiring campaigns.”
Gavin Williamson on the day he met Darth Vader. pic.twitter.com/KzwFwpkXtY
— Tillz (@BlueTillz75) September 8, 2021
Both sports stars responded in good humour on Twitter.
Mr Itoje wrote: “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.”
Mr Rashford wrote with a laughing emoji: “Accent could have been a giveaway.”