Former Sale Shark Rory Brand will realise a long-held dream next season when he starts his professional career at London Irish.
The 18-year-old, who goes to school at Wellington College in Berkshire, has been promoted to the senior academy and harbours hopes of breaking into the Exiles’ first team next year.
Irish may have been relegated from the Aviva Premiership but the success of their youth team, who won the Under-18 Academy trophy this year, is a reason to remain optimistic.
Brand, who moved to Irish from Sale Sharks last September due to school, played a key part in their success as the team won all seven of the games he started.
“Ever since I was a six-year-old boy I have dreamed of becoming a professional rugby player so to make that step up is going to be amazing,” the scrum-half said.
“It’s a great achievement and something I have always wanted. I am just looking forward to getting into pre-season with the boys and proving my worth.
“To play with some of the seniors will be quite a big step up, but it’s important to make the move up and get that experience.
”It is important for young guys to prove to themselves and to everyone else that you are not out of your depth and capable of matching their standards so it’s a big confidence boost to be in.
“Beforehand it will be nerve-wracking but as soon as you get your hands on the ball for the first time it just becomes normal.”
Brand’s switch to scrum-half two years ago was the catalyst for his improvement, after previously being shunted around the backs and filling in wherever required.
His focus is firmly on next season, and the Exiles hope their young guns can fire them back into the Premiership at the first time of asking.
“It is a drawback for the club to go down but I think it definitely gives a chance to us in the academy to force our way in there,” he said.
“We are looking forward to the opportunity of making a claim and making a few appearances in the championship.
“That is at the forefront of all our minds. The goal is to start in the Premiership next year and it all starts in pre-season from June 27.”
Brand has a key decision to make in the coming years over who he will represent at international level, although for now he is sticking with England.
As a proud Scotsman he found it strange to be in a white top when the two Under 18s side met last year, although he quickly adapted and is flourishing for England, who he qualifies to play for through school.
Brand’s family moved to Wigan from Scottish Borders town Galashiels in 2012 in order to help his career.
After a stint at rugby league side Salford City Reds, he went back to union with Sale before moving to Irish last September.
Brand’s father, Eric, started a new career as a nurse in order for the family to settle and Brand is aware of how much they have done to help his career.
“It means a lot. Everything I do is for them,” he said.
“All the work I do in training. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today so I owe it all to them. I am very grateful.
“My family support me, whoever I play for. All that matters to them is that I play well.”
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Image courtesy of Rory Brand via Twitter, with thanks.