JOSH GRAY BARNARD CASTLE NO.8
Josh Gray was just 12 when his brother Alex led England U20s to the Junior World Cup final in 2011 and that was the moment that fuelled his desire to chase a professional rugby career for himself.
Six years on, Gray junior is about to leave the famous Barnard Castle school, where his brother also went, and he is grateful to have a personal coach as he tries to break into senior rugby.
“My brother has been a real inspiration to me and I thought if he’s that good in rugby maybe I should give it a go myself,” Gray told The Rugby Paper.
“I took a bigger interest in rugby when my brother was captain of the England U20s team in 2011 but I really took it seriously in the past two years after joining Barnard Castle.
“He’s a centre these days but he grew up playing in the back row and he’s been full of advice for me, especially in terms of conditioning to do little extras other players my age might not be doing.
“He’s got a lot of experience in that area especially from his time with England Sevens so I’m very lucky to have him.
“I’m going to play on the Sevens circuit with Samurai this summer which should be a great experience. It’ll be my first taste of senior rugby so I’m not too sure what to expect but I’m looking forward to it.
“Maybe I’ll follow in his footsteps again and try to break into the England Sevens setup. I’m quite light and skilful for a No.8 so that might be a good route for me.” Keeping on his brother’s path, Josh was part of the Newcastle academy this season but a full-time contract failed to materialise and he will not be joining the academy full-time next year. But far from feeling sorry for himself, he will sort out his education with a university degree knowing there should be a way to professional rugby after that. He added: “It was disappointing not to get an academy contract with Newcastle but it’s not the end of the world. “I’m going to go to university next year but whether it’ll be Loughborough or Durham I don’t know yet. They both have great rugby programmes so it’ll depend on the grades I get for my ALevels. “Going to university will give me the opportunity to get a degree and it might also give me the opportunity to turn professional after that. “Both of them play in the BUCS Super Rugby which is a good standard and Loughborough even play in National League One on weekends which as a young forward would be great to experience. “I’m still in touch with the Falcons so even if I’m not officially contracted with them, going to Durham could give me the chance to play for Tynedale or Blaydon. “There are a lot of players getting signed from university these days so not getting that academy contract is definitely not the be all and end all for me.” NICK VERDIER