A student rugby player who first learnt the game as a child in Dubai will debut for England at the Hong Kong Sevens this weekend.
Will Wilson, a No 8 who will also take up a professional contract with English Premiership side Wasps this summer, started rugby as a mini for Dubai Exiles aged five.
After his time spent attending primary school at Dubai English Speaking School, he returned home with his family to the UK.
Now 21, he has been called into the England senior side for the first time on the HSBC World Sevens Series for the Hong Kong tournament.
“To get the call up and to see my name on the screen when the team was announced was an unbelievable feeling,” Wilson said.
“The tournament starts [on Friday], I have been in Hong Kong for six days and it still hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“I am massively excited, hugely honoured to represent my country. I am really grateful as well that the Exiles are putting it out in the press about me, and maybe one day I will be back in Dubai wearing an England shirt back where it all started.”
Wilson has been dovetailing playing rugby with studying at Oxford University for the past three years.
He has been handed his chance with England in Hong Kong after a number of first-team regulars were rested with a view to the Commonwealth Games tournament in Australia next weekend.
“Hong Kong is such a prestigious event on the World Series circuit and will be a brilliant opportunity for our younger players,” Simon Amor, the England coach, said.
“They will have some really tough competition but we are excited to see them showcase their talent as they push on for further honours within England sevens.”
Coincidentally, Wilson captained England’s student side at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa three years ago.
Back then, he was not paying much thought to a career in the game. Now he is weighing up the best way to juggle sevens and XVs commitments, having had discussions about playing both professionally.
He opted to take up a chance at XVs with Wasps, under the belief he might be given the chance to join up with England sevens if further representative chances come his way.
“Three years ago I didn’t see rugby as a career at all,” Wilson said. “I was perfectly happy to go to Oxford, complete my studies, see where university rugby took me, and try to win a blue [the award for representatives of the university rugby team].
“My rugby really came on in the two and a half years I was there. I am massively privileged to be going professional next year, but the Wasps call came out of nowhere.”
Mike Wolff, the Exiles chairman, says Wilson’s elevation to the professional game in the UK is another feather in the cap of the UAE’s oldest club.
“We have seen a number of our players go on to do great things during or after their time with us in Dubai,” Wolff said. “This is all a consequence of the effort and resources our dedicated coaches and volunteers put into the game.
“We are delighted to learn Exiles’ alumnus Will Wilson has been award a full-time professional playing contract with Wasps. To put the icing on the cake, he has been announced as part of the England squad for the Hong Kong sevens.”