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From Tag Rugby to 1st XV via England Counties Trials – My ‘Juniors Journey’

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By Miles Calvert 

I’d enjoyed ‘Tag’ on a Sunday morning, but at 8 years old, contact rugby sounded a bit daunting. All my tag friends were joining the U9s that September, so I did too.

I was actively encouraged by all of my coaches and I learnt lots from these experienced older heads who had played for the ‘firsts’ themselves. I was lucky enough to be nominated for the Gloucester DPP at U12s and the weekly sessions of ‘drills and skills’ helped me to improve my Sunday game for the Pats. It was at a DPP tournament that I got injured, tearing my ACL at 13 years old. I missed 3 seasons of junior rugby having 2 operations, but throughout that time my only goal was to get back on the pitch. I worked hard to get myself fit again and started playing again in January 2017. We reached the U16s County Cup final that year, where we were narrowly beaten, but I was back playing at a decent level with a great team of friends.

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The following season I started playing for the Colts and was nominated for county U17s. I got through the trials and played for the GRFU side against Somerset, Oxfordshire and Dorset, and that season I was also picked to play for the Irish Exiles U18s to play Boys Clubs of Wales. At the start of the 2019 season I was nominated for the county U18 squad, this time the matches were a trial for the England South West counties squad. We had a brilliant team coached by Ben Smith and Downsey, winning both of our games and I was selected to represent the South West U18s.

The standard at the England counties games was very high, and I had to really step up my game, as we were trialling for the England counties squad to play in two capped test matches against Ireland. We were involved in 2 matches and a 2-day camp at Warwick School and the University, where we trained with the other regions in top class facilities and were assessed the whole weekend for our skills on and off the pitch. Unfortunately, I wasn’t selected for the final squad, however I was proud to get as far as I did and experienced very high level rugby and coaching.

Ben Smith contacted me after the county matches to ask if I wanted to play for the 1st XV at Pats so I started training with them once I had finished the England Counties pathway. The whole team were very welcoming – they could probably tell I was a bit nervous playing against blokes twice my size (sometimes three times). My first team debut at Beaconsfield RFC was a mud bath, but despite us losing narrowly I scored a try and got joint man of the match. My second game was at Everest Rd and we hammered Chippenham RFC scoring 8 tries in the process.

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My rugby journey has been full of lots of highs and lows, but the support of the club, my coaches and my teammates has been fantastic. I’ll continue to play rugby when I go to University this autumn, but will always look back on my junior rugby days with fond memories.