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Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter writes

Posted Monday, August 10th 2020

Academy duo soaking up star surroundings

Deago Bailey and Tom Wilstead were key cogs in the Academy U18’s journey to Finals Day earlier this year – but fast forward six months, and the pair find themselves in the thick of preparations for the resumption of the Gallagher Premiership and rubbing shoulders with some of the game’s biggest stars.

'Surreal'

“It’s been pretty surreal,” says Bailey, a powerful and dynamic winger, whose performances during the U18’s campaign saw him named in the England training squad alongside Wilstead, before the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to the international age group season.

“To be training with players like Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra and Kyle Sinckler is unbelievable, but also to see guys like Callum Sheedy, Joe Joyce and Andy Uren – all of whom were in our position earlier in their career – is really inspiring.

“We’re learning all of the time from the players around us. They have all been really welcoming and helpful and I’m just trying to soak in as much as possible.

“It’s still a shock every day to be training alongside these guys. They have been our idols and we’ve watched them for years, and now we’re learning from them and training with them every day.”

Attention to detail

For Wilstead, it’s much of the same, and the former Colstons School pupil says it’s been a step up, both in terms of physicality and detail.

“Obviously, it’s a step up from a school or U18s environment. I think the main thing for us two is to learn as much as we can, as quickly as we can.

“People like Charles and Semi, some of the best in the world in their positions, they’ve got a lot to give to us young guys and we’re just trying to pick their brains as much as possible.”

“The most challenging thing so far is the amount of detail we’re going into. At U18s or schoolboy rugby, you can get away with being off on little details, but here you’ve got to be on point and that’s something that we’ve got to pick up as we go along – and if we make a mistake, making sure we adjust it for the next time.”

Deago Bailey in action for Bears U18s.

Improvement

“It’s just getting your body used to it,” adds Bailey. “At U18 level you don’t train this often and now we’re training every day. It’s getting your body used to that amount of running and the physicality side.

“My aim is just improvement – I want to improve the small things that make a big difference. It would be good to get some game time, but as a young guy, you never know.”

Wilstead is also fully focused on progress and keen to play his part as the Bears hunt silverware in the closing stages of the 2019/20 season.

“The ambition for the club is to make two finals, so anything we can do to help those guys best prepare, we’ll do. But as much as we want to learn from them, we also want to push them.”


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