The joys of working in a school means I can take advantage of midweek media invites at times; one such invite came from Harlequins via Premiership Rugby. An opportunity to watch Quins train at the Surrey Sports Park and see the new shirt, oh and have the chance to chat to Joe Gray and George Lowe! An opportunity that was too good to miss! Strangely the SatNav took me to a hospital! How reliant we are on those things – the Sports Park was clearly signposted!
Harlequins have a great facility to use, Surrey Sports Park is a large and impressive place; the squad was split up largely based on positions. With groups of Forwards and Backs spread across 2 rugby pitches. 2 things that struck me more than anything – the size of the squad, bearing in mind those in international training camps were missing, there were loads of them! Around 40 with more to come. That’s a lot of individuals to keep track of in both physical and well being terms.
The 2nd thing was how much fun the players were having at times, this was more of a light hearted session than a standard one with outside eyes on them, but the camaraderie was plain to see. Quins had a tough season at times last year, hopefully the hard work and clear team spirit will see them being more consistent in the 2015/16 season.
I’ve written more about the training session on 365 Sporting Days so won’t go over old ground here. On to the ‘interviews’ – I didn’t have too much time with Joe or George so had pre prepared questions along the lines of those I’ve used for the England camp interviews I’ve done. I lingered too long with Joe so didn’t quite get to ask George all the questions – but, here goes!
What’s your earliest rugby memory?
The 1st time he went to Nottingham Rugby Club to watch his brother, he was 8 years old. It looked great fun so he joined in with the Under 10’s that same day. A week later he started and that was his rugby career started.
A very similar story for George – it seem that big brothers have a big influence! He went along to Cobham Minis at the age of 5 and the bug was caught! George went all the way through their youth set up and played at Epsom College, the school he followed his brother into.
Who’s had the biggest influence on your rugby career?
Joe’s Dad – he’d never played rugby himself but would spend hours practicing with Joe. Unlike many of todays players Joe didn’t attend a private school, with the best will in the world state school facilities can’t match those of the private sector, so Joe had a fitness programme for after school. His Dad gave him sound advice in advising him to do everything he could within his physical strengths to succeed.
His Dad made a lollipop pole for target practice and spent hours holding the thing for Joe to throw the ball at. Both Joe’s Mum & Dad come to as many games as they can and have missed only around 5 games. They use it as their holiday!
Which has been your best rugby memory?
Joe was quick to answer this one – Winning the 2012 Premiership Final! And having been at Northampton Saints playing and beating in the semi was amazing. He had a close 2nd in beating Munster away in 2011, he made 18 tackles in a half which was a great feat. The atmosphere was amazing a red sea of Munster fans – the atmosphere was intimidating – yet the Munster fans were buying beers after the game.
Winning the Premiership is a big thing and that was George’s best memory to be involved in such an amazing afternoon at 22 will be a memory that’s hard to beat.
Which has been your worst rugby memory?
Having made his way through the Northampton Saints Academy Joe was offered a contract on the same Thursday he passed his driving test. He played a game on the Saturday and dislocated his right knee rupturing all 4 ligaments. He was out 15 months and was told that he may not run again. Saints were very supportive and he was treated by an amazing surgeon NHS surgeon in Nottingham who was incredibly positive and put Joe back together again.
More photos at http://debsknigsport.com/2015/08/19/harlequins-training-shirt-launch-event-111/