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Cassius Cleaves: England's future superstar

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Monday Jul 17, 2023

Remember the name: Cassius Cleaves.

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Named after the late great Muhammed Ali, this young man is threatening to become the next great superstar of English rugby.

Having dominated junior-level competitions for the past few years, Cleaves displayed his immense talent on the world stage in the recent u20 World Cup – picking up three tries in the process.

Once touted as the ‘best schoolboy rugby player in England’, Cleaves has developed his game over time – boosted by the speed and strength that made him such a formidable young player.

Speaking to Joe Harvey at Talking Rugby Union last year, Cleaves explained that he had only taken up the sport at the age of eleven as it was compulsory whilst studying at Wimbledon College.

Starting rugby life as a prop, Cleaves told the reporter: “I can’t even remember if I scrummed or not, I had no idea what I was doing. I just remember catching the ball and running as quick as I could.

“Once I realised I could do it, that I could just catch the ball and run, I just started loving it and wanted to do it more. I’d go home and train with my sister. I’d force her to chuck a ball about and from there I just started watching YouTube videos, started watching more rugby, mum started taking me to games, so I would get as much rugby in as possible within the week.”

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Quoting the likes of Shaun Johnson, Kalyn Ponga, Quade Cooper, Israel Dagg. Jason Robinson and Chris Ashton all as inspirations for the young man, he was eventually signed by Harlequins as a youth prospect.

Thanks to his performances in the Rosslyn Park Sevens as well as support provided by Seb’s Foundation, which provides rugby training camps and scholarships, he attended the prestigious Wellington College, well known for their rugby programme, for the rest of his schooling days.

Progressing with his rugby career, Cleaves made his first senior start for Harlequins in last year’s Premiership Rugby Cup in a match that saw his side lose against Sale Sharks, despite the winger getting on the scoresheet twice.

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Having displayed plenty of promise at junior level and making his breakthrough at senior level with Harlequins, the 20-year-old earned his national colours with England Under 20s. First appearing for the young England side in 2022 – Cleaves has made a huge impact since making the step up.

Playing alongside the likes of now full senior international, Henry Arundell, the talent this lad has is undeniable.

Performing in his first U20s World Cup this year, after the tournament had been cancelled since 2019, the man with blistering pace and a deadly sidestep was one of the key players in an England side that picked up fourth place. His ability to beat players makes him a real asset, and will no doubt be banging on Steve Borthwick’s door very soon.

 

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Watch this space.

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