Abu Dhabi schoolboy Sam Relton, 16, given a ‘taste’ with Premiership’s Saracens
ABU DHABI // When the summer holidays ended last month, one Abu Dhabi schoolboy was able to return to class and tell his mates about the five weeks he spent training at Europe’s leading rugby club.
Sam Relton, an openside flanker, had been scheduled to have two weeks at Saracens academy in London, as part of a link-up between the club and British School Al Khubairat (BSAK).
The coaches from England’s champion club were so impressed by his talent and attitude, they invited him to stay for more than twice as long.
Despite the fact he was returning to the UAE and will not be part of their team this winter, he was even given game time in a match against Ulster academy.
Now he wants to put what he learnt into action to help his school side win the Gulf Under 19 tournament at the Dubai Rugby Sevens in December. He also hopes it will help set him on the path to a career in the sport.
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“I was quite nervous, stepping into a new environment,” said Relton, 16, who is from London.
“It was the first year I was going to England without my parents. I was living with my cousin and had to cook for myself, do my washing up, find my way up to the ground, going by myself.
“I didn’t know anyone there, but the coaches and the boys made me feel really welcome, so I settled in fast.”
It is not the first time BSAK pupils have trodden the path from the capital to Saracens, whose first team won Europe’s top competition, the Champions Cup, in May.
In the summer of 2015, Harry Seward, a prop, and Fraser March, a scrum-half, spent three weeks training at the academy in Hertfordshire.
According to Ed Lewsey, the director of rugby at the school, the three-week extension to Relton’s original schedule was a sizable compliment.
“We thought it was going to be a week or two, to give him a taste of the professional level, and that he would learn a lot,” Lewsey said.
“We hoped he could bring back what he learnt and saw, and instil it into some of his peers here at the rugby programme, to benefit us as a school.
“The fact he stayed for five weeks is a big commendation for Sam. He has a great attitude, and was one of our leading players at school last year, even though he was two years younger than most of the other players.”
As part of the first team at BSAK, Relton now trains five times per week at school. That marks quite a progression from his initial contact with a sport which he loathed, before he and his family relocated from London to the UAE.
“I used to hate it when I was living in England,” Relton said. “Where I lived, football was the main thing.
“I took it up when I was here when I was 10 years old. My friends recommended I come down to Harlequins, and that’s where my passion for it started.
“I’d love to be a professional rugby player when I’m older. At the moment I’m just focusing on being the best player I can be now, and am trying to implement everything I learnt at Saracens into my game.
“I also want to share what I’ve learnt with the boys in the team here, so we can improve and hopefully win the Dubai Sevens. That would be a dream come true.”
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Published: September 18, 2016 04:00 AM