Eltham College 1st XV rugby co-captain, rugby player at Old Elthamians RFC and Saracens Academy, and now selected to play for the U20 Canada Rugby squad. We take a look back at James’ rugby journey:
James (Upper Sixth) started playing rugby in Year 3 at Eltham College Junior School. At the time, James was more interested in football, but he enjoyed playing rugby in PE lessons. When James transitioned to Eltham College Senior School, he decided to shift his focus towards rugby and join the U12 team at Blackheath Rugby Club. The club taught James a great deal and ignited his passion for the sport. Reflecting on his time at the club, James said: “I wouldn’t be the player I am today without the coaches at Blackheath Rugby Club.”
In Christmas 2016, James was selected to join Saracens Academy to play for the U15 squad – a huge step for him personally and a fantastic opportunity to play alongside the best players from Kent, Essex and Herts. James continues to play for Saracens Academy today and has loved every minute with the club. In 2017, James competed in a tournament at Harrow School against Wasps and Bath rugby teams and, following this, was selected to go to a South England training camp coached by the England U18 coach at the time, John Fletcher. The experience was highly motivating and spurred James on to pursue his dream of playing rugby professionally.
At age 15, James made his 1st XV debut for Eltham College, playing alongside older students who he had looked up to throughout the school. James found the U17 season to be a huge learning curve, as he started every game at fullback, a position he had never previously played. However, the Eltham College 1st XV squad finished the season unbeaten in regular fixtures, something that had not happened in several years, making the season one to remember. In the same year, James also decided to move to Old Elthamians RFC to be closer to his school team, as well as to play for a club with high aspirations, excellent facilities and coaching.
A pivotal moment for James was in January 2019, when he made his U18 Saracens Academy debut, playing against London Irish. Playing in such a match was particularly special for James as he had put in countless hours of hard work and dedication to make the Academy League squad.
In April 2019, James was selected for the Canada U20 squad, where he spent three weeks in a training camp in Victoria BC Canada, leading up to the Junior World Rugby Trophy qualifier games against the USA. James was honoured to receive his first two international caps for Canada and help the team secure a place at the Junior World Trophy in Brazil. Although James was not selected for the squad to go to Brazil, he was selected for the Canada U18 sevens team to play against the USA in Toronto, in which James started two games and won both, rounding off a very memorable 2018/19 season.
During his time at Eltham College, James has captained the U14, U15 and U16 rugby teams. In his final year at Eltham College, James feels very privileged to have co-captained the 1st XV team with one of his best friends, Frankie.
“I have to thank the school for a big part of what I have achieved in rugby. Eltham College has helped me balance my intense sporting commitments alongside my academics, both of which are very important to me. Everyone at the school has been incredibly supportive and understanding in all aspects of school life, helping me in every way possible. During my GCSEs, teachers held regular clinics to help me catch to up on work I had missed or to explain topics I found challenging. On top of this, whenever I have asked a teacher to go through any work I have missed, they have willingly offered their free time to help – without them, school life for me would have been much harder and my results would not have been the same. From a sporting perspective, the coaches have always been willing to give their expertise in the game, offer post game analysis and skill based constructive criticism outside of lessons. Sport in general is such a physically and mentally taxing game, so having such supportive teachers and nurses like Cheryl and Terri at the school has truly made all the difference. They have always helped me when I’m down or when I need patching up.”
Looking ahead, the U20 Canada Rugby squad will play Portugal on 17 and 20 February in Lisbon and we wish James, and the team, all the very best!