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Young Gun: George Stokes – Glasgow flanker

Growing up in Spain, George Stokes always faced an uphill battle to make it as a rugby player without the professional pathways that exist in the UK.

But his stars aligned when an U18s tournament allowed Stokes to put his name out there in front of the best of Europe. Fast forward a few years he is now looking to make his mark in the PRO12.

Stokes moved to Spain at the age of eight and went on to represent the national side at U16s and U18s level. It was in ther U18s in 2013 that he went to Grenoble for the annual FIRA tournament where scouts from French giants Toulon spotted him and offered hima dream deal.

However given their stellar squad, first team exposure did not materialise and he has now taken the plunge to join Glasgow Warriors ahead of the new season.

“Ending up playing for Toulon on the back of playing for Spain U18s isn’t a conventional way to get there but that’s how it all kicked off for me,” he told The Rugby Paper.

“It was a great experience to play for a team like Toulon. I’ve enjoyed my time there but I was getting desperate to play for the first team which given the squad they have was getting difficult.

“The French don’t do the dual-registration system so it’s very hard for young players to breakthrough.

“I got my only game for the first team in the exhibition match against the Sharks at the Stade Mayol in 2015 but the Espoirs competition was where I got all my game time.

“It was a good competition at first when I was 18 playing in an U23 league but by the end I was one of the older guys there and it wasn’t as challenging.

“I needed a new challenge and my agent got me a trial up in Scotland. I ended up playing in a trial match for Glasgow against the Scotland U20s just before the Six Nations. Gregor Townsend was keen to sign me after that and I signed my contract.”

Qualifying for Scotland through his grandfather, Stokes, now 21, left the South coast of France a month ago looking to make an early mark on his new coaches.

He added: “I’ve been in pre-season for three weeks now and even if I think I’ll need time to get used to the weather and I’m looking forward to the season.

“I’m on an academy contract so I’ll play for Ayr in the Scottish Premiership when I’m not required. They won the Premiership last season so it should be a great club to go to.

“Spending three years at Toulon did wonders for my skills. You get to learn great things from players like Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe or Juan Smith.

“Gregor is not the coach anymore but I’ll do my best to impress Dave Rennie and the new coaching staff and hopefully I can play many games for the Warriors this season.”

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