Reece Amir’s burgeoning rugby career took a major step forward when he made his England debut.
The 16-year-old from Seaburn - a former national boxing champion - played in England’s 38-37 defeat to Wales in Caerphilly.
I could not have been prouder when I put the shirt on.Reece Amir
Reece’s passion for rugby began at Ashbrooke with Sunderland, before he moved on to Durham City - and he was then picked up by Newcastle Falcons.
His boxing career has now been put on hold as he pursues a possible career in professional rugby.
“It was extremely hard to decide between the sports as I had been doing boxing since before I can remember,” said the Durham School student.
“I had only been doing rugby for three years at the time, but I do love it.
“I chose rugby because I like being part of a team, whereas boxing is a solo sport and it’s all up to you.”
Reece believes, though, that his experience in the boxing gym over many years laid good foundations for his rugby success.
“The boxing gave me a lot of fitness and endurance,” he explained. “But in boxing you really need to keep slim and get the weight off, but in rugby they want you to put on weight - so there was no real way I could do both sports.”
And the teenager will be looking to get bigger and stronger in coming years as he describes himself - aptly - as a hard-hitting forward.
Having gone through England trials, Reece was thrilled to finally get the nod as part of the England Under-16 side.
“It was more relief at first, because I had been waiting in anticipation after the trials to see whether I was in or not.
“I was obviously ecstatic when I found out. On the day of the game, I was a mixture of nervousness and excitement to get onto the pitch and I could not have been prouder when I out the shirt on.”
With the season now over, the England ambitions have to go on hold for a while.
“There are no England fixtures or training at the moment - it’s a shame the union season is over but I’m still going to play some rugby league during the summer.
“It’s been great with the Falcons. It’s a very good set-up designed at developing the players.
“All the coaches want to help you as much as they can, and being there has brought me on as a player incredibly.”
Reece, though, is keeping his feet firmly on the ground - a wise plan for a prop!
“I would love to have a pro career, but I’m still young and anything could happen so I have to concentrate on my school grades first,” he said.
“Many people have helped me over the years, including Stuart Hanson who coached me when I first started and was extremely patient with me as I was a total novice to the game.
“Also my school coaches who put a lot of time into my rugby, and the academy coaches who have brought me on so much over the last year, as well as the England coach Steve Shortland.”