Cymoedd Alumnus Calum Haggett is a few weeks away from possibly fulfilling one of his dreams by playing for Oxford University in the Varsity Match at Twickenham.
The 138th â€˜Battle of the Bluesâ€™ takes place at the home of English rugby on Thursday, 12 December, and the 23-year-old former Wales U18 captain is well placed to make an appearance in the second row for the Dark Blues.
He toured Japan with them at the start of the season, playing in the World Universities Invitation Tournament, and started in the big pre-Varsity Match game against the Major Stanleyâ€™s XV. Oxford meet Richmond this weekend in their final outing before Twickenham with Haggett hoping to get the nod for the big game from skipper Ed David.
â€œIt has been a long road to get here via London, but I am glad I made it in the end. I got the offer first time around when I was out in South Africa with Wales U18,â€ said Haggett, who left Coleg Y Cymoedd with three As and an A* at A Level.
â€œI didnâ€™t make the grade the first time and went back for another year, but then I didnâ€™t get past the interviews the next year. I was shocked, demoralised and devastated and I thought I would never get to Oxford.
â€œBy the end it was sheer effort after three great years at Imperial that made it third time lucky. I worked through the summer to get onto the post-graduate medicine course and I got there in the end.â€
Still a member of the inaugural WRU Youth Board set-up by CEO Martyn Phillips, Haggett didnâ€™t give up on his rugby career at Imperial, joining the London Irish Wild Geese side playing in National League 2. He also kept a very close eye on the players who he grew up with.
â€œOwen Watkin, Owen Lane, Rhys Carre were all in the Wales U18 team with me, as was Seb Davies. In the year above me at Cymoedd were Dillon Lewis and Tom Williams,â€ added Haggett, who learned his rugby at Tonyrefail Comprehensive School.
â€œThe culture is everything there and they created a great learning and playing environment for me. I met with the A Level director from the college recently and I am trying to get more RCT children interested in coming to Oxford to study medicine.
â€œToo many think Oxford is out of their reach and isnâ€™t for them, but there is nothing different about it. You may have to put on a gown once or twice a week, but thatâ€™s it.â€
If he does see off competition from Jasper Dix, George Warr and the former Wasps professional Kearnan Myall and get into the second row to face Cambridge that will be a major achievement. Then the hard work will begin for the Magdalen College student.
Cambridge have recruited and will have two giants of world rugby in their engine room at Twickenham in former Australian and Harlequins captain James Horwill and Springbok giant Flip van der Merwe.
â€œIt is very competitive for places in the Oxford team. It has been going alright so far and Iâ€™ve been pushing hard,â€ said Haggett
â€œMy focus is on getting a Blue, but if it doesnâ€™t happen next month I will have to work even harder next year to try to get into the team. It is a huge opportunity to play against two world leading second rows this year.â€
Credits: Rob Cole
Rhondda Cynon Taff
Heol y Coleg
Rhondda Cynon Taff