A tale of two nations for rugby hope Corey

READY TO SUCCEED: Spalding Grammar School and Spalding RFC  rugby player 'Corey Lewis.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

READY TO SUCCEED: Spalding Grammar School and Spalding RFC rugby player 'Corey Lewis. Photo by Tim Wilson.

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Spalding rugby prospect Corey Lewis (16) will have split loyalties when the RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) Six Nations Championship starts in three weeks’ time.

The Spalding Grammar School student, who scored 120 points during an incredible 2013/14 season playing for Spalding RFC under-15s, has a Welsh dad and English mom, giving Corey a dilemma as to which team to support when the two nations meet on February 6.

Leicester Tigers development rugby player Corey Lewis outside  Spalding Grammar School.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

Leicester Tigers development rugby player Corey Lewis outside Spalding Grammar School. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Corey said: “My dad used to be a cross country runner in Wales and my mum did athletics while growing up in England.

“We’re all quite sporty as a family because my brothers play football and my sister does trampoling.

“I used to play in the back row when I was younger because I was a lot bigger than everybody else.

“I felt confident when I was running at people, but then I got moved to play as a hooker where you do things like throwing the ball into the lineout.”

Corey started playing rugby as a five-year-old at Spalding’s vibrant junior set-up which has more than 200 youngsters aged between six and 18.

“I enjoyed rugby from the start, playing for a few age groups until I got to under-14 level when I was put on the Developing Player Programme at Leicester Tigers,” Corey said.

“A group of 25 players were selected to play in a 12-a-side tournament against Bath, Sale Sharks, Worcester and Leicester, before going on to play in a 15-a-side tournament run by England Rugby which included Northampton Saints and Worcester Warriors.

“From my group, 15 are eventually selected to be interviewed for the ten places with Leicester Tigers Academy.”

Jeremy Chew, Spalding’s chairman and co-ordinator of mini and youth rugby, said: “I had the pleasure of taking Corey to rugby when he started back in September 2003 and coached him during his mini and tag rugby years.

“From the start, he was a stand-out player, ducking and weaving through teams.

“But Corey also has a very mature sportsman’s head on his shoulders and, on more than one occasion, opposition coaches have commended us on his sportsmanship after games.

“Corey has a great rugby skill set and his ability has seen him play in several positions, including scrum half, back row and centre, with Leicester Tigers Academy now playing him as a hooker.”

Corey’s dream is to be one of the lucky ten to be selected for Leicester Tigers Academy which will take him a little closer to emulating his favourite rugby players, England World Cup legend Jonny Wilkinson and current international centre Manu Tuilagi.

“I’m always out of the house and playing rugby, but I played football as well until it came to a point where I had to choose between the two,” Corey said.

“It’s quite hard to balance rugby with school work and not that I’m in my GCSE year, there’s a lot of school work to do.

“But being at school helps my rugby as well because you’ve got to have a good attitude towards other people in rugby, especially the referee, so it helps me to be around people at school.

“My hopes are to play for Leicester Tigers Academy and become a first team player, then have a big decision to make as to whether I play for England or Wales.”

Jeremy said: “Spalding Rugby Football Club (RFC) have nurtured many talented players over its 91-year history and I am sure that everyone at the club will agree that Corey has the ability and attitude to go a long way in the sport.

“Indeed, his biggest challenge could be in deciding which country to play for as his father is a genuine Welshman, while his mother is English.

“Corey could well be the first player from Spalding RFC to play for his country - the only trouble is which shirt will he wear?

“Whichever one he chooses however, we wish him every success and hope that we will get a signed shirt to put on our clubhouse wall.”

An experience that has put Corey well on the way to a future as an international rugby player came at under-12 and under-13 levels when he took part in a junior rugby festival at Twickenham.

Corey said: “It was quite scary because it was on a massive pitch, with a massive stream of people around you.

“We didn’t know what to expect and we played before an England international game, with four teams involved and our parents watching.

“I’ve been all over the country playing rugby and my parents have always taken me, having bought all my kit, so they are the biggest supporters I’ve got.”

Dave Venables, director of sport by Spalding Grammar School, said: “Corey is a very talented and extremely versatile player who is displaying his skills in a range of both back and forward positions.

“Throughout his time here at Spalding Grammar School, Corey has displayed exceptional leadership qualities during his five years as school captain.

“Corey thrives on the responsibility, supporting fellow players, which has had a real impact on the team’s performances and he has made the transition to senior rugby where he has already become a valued member of the first XV.

“We are proud of Corey’s success and hope he can fulfil his ambitions within the game.”

Last year, Corey discovered the unhappy of sporting competition when he and Spalding narrowly missed out on success in the NLD (Notts, Lincs and Derbyshire) Cup.

Corey explained: “We lost on countback, even though we had won most of the rugby festivals against others clubs in the tournament.

“But I made up for it at the club awards night where I was named player of the year.

“If you’re a good rugby player, it’s because you’ve watched a lot of games and how other people play.

“It makes it easier as you go along and you get an idea of how to go about playing in a game.

“But even my playing career doesn’t work out, I’d still like to be a coach.”

Jeremy added: “As a community rugby club, it is great to see players progress and we are all proud of Corey’s achievements to date.

“Spalding RFC looks forward to watching Corey’s career develop over the coming years.”