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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

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