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In-Depth: Giltrow out to seize la grande opportunité

‘A dream come true’ is how Alex Giltrow described signing his first professional contract with Bristol Rugby at the age of 26; but having achieved a boyhood ambition, the tighthead prop is keen to ensure that this is just the beginning.

Giltrow penned a one-year contract at the club following a unique and successful trial period, handed to him by head coach, Pat Lam at the beginning of the summer – an opportunity that saw him put a career in heating engineering on hold temporarily. 

It’s been a rapid rise for the man whose story has earned him the tag ‘prop idol’ within the local media - but it’s not the only nickname the ginger-haired front-rower has earned along the way. During a Clevedon U17 tour to Paris, Giltrow’s barnstorming performance saw him labelled ‘La Grande Rouge’ (The Big Red) by the locals – now he’s out to seize la grande opportunité.

“It’s a dream come true really,” said Giltrow. “When I was asked to come in and train during pre-season, I jumped at the opportunity and thankfully, my employers said they would support me and encouraged me to go for it.

“I was always hopeful I’d get offered a contract and after I’d had a taste of professional rugby, it would have been difficult to go straight back into my old job.

“But I’m not finished yet – it would be crazy for me to think that because I’d achieved a lifelong dream, that was that. Now I want to kick on, keep improving and hopefully, put myself in line for some Championship rugby – that’s my new target.”

THEN: Giltrow in the stands during 2016/17 season (JMP UK).
NOW: The prop in action against Harlequins during pre-season (JMP UK).

Giltrow’s first taste of senior rugby – and the front row - came at Combination side Clevedon RFC, before making the jump to National Two outfit, Clifton.

The 2016/17 campaign ended with him being named coaches’ player of the season – but the plaudits and recognition had only just begun.

With the career break now a permanent one, the Bristolian – who has represented England Students and England Counties in the past twelve months – is out to make up for lost time.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get myself up to scratch with my fitness, learning the calls and getting used to training every day. But it’s something that I absolutely love doing, so it doesn’t feel like work.

“My family are obviously delighted, really proud and I couldn’t have achieved this without their support.”

Giltrow’s competitive Bristol debut is yet to come around, but when it does, his family’s support will be bolstered by thousands of Bristolians, eager to see one of their own flourish in the famous blue and white hoops.

By Will Carpenter.