Sam Wainwright grew up admiring New Zealand’s double World Cup-winning brothers, Owen and Ben Franks. Now, he gets the chance to play against them after his shock summer move to Saracens.
Brought up on the distinctly non-rugby mad North Wales coast, Wainwright attended football-centric Prestatyn High School before being persuaded to attend rugby training at nearby Rhyl RFC.
He never looked back, moving quickly through the propping ranks before being picked up by rising Welsh force RGC 1404 at the age of 15, for whom he made his Welsh Premiership debut at 18, playing three years at senior level before being picked up by Saracens.
With tightheads Vincent Koch, Juan Figallo and Titi Lamositele away at the World Cup, opportunity might knock sooner than expected for Wainwright. Ask the 21-year-old to name his biggest influences and the players he admires most, the answers are unequivocal.
“First and foremost, it’s my mum and dad,” Wainwright said. “They put a great set of values into me and never forced me to go into sport or anything, but they had a massive impact on me and have never missed a game since I was 12. Fingers crossed that continues.
“After that, I had some great coaches at RGC 1404 and Llandrillo College, in particular Josh Leach, Phil John and Mark Jones. Looking back at the stuff Phil did at the Scarlets, it just inspires you to get to that level and he, Mark and Josh put a lot of time into me there.
“I’m grateful for that and I’d also say that as players I looked up to, the Franks bothers were pretty big role models. When I was younger, I just thought they brought something different to the table. It was their style of play, they weren’t just your traditional props.”
Wainwright explained: “I looked at documentaries on them and they just did things a bit differently to other players and offered a bit more. With the way front rowers are going now, the scrum and set-piece still have to be solid, but it’s all the stuff outside that.
“Props have to be athletic these days and your job involves that as well, so the way the Franks brothers have conditioned themselves and managed things off the pitch is a great example to aspiring guys like me. You can see the huge success they’ve enjoyed.”
Wainwright has represented Wales at U20s level but is dual-qualified through his Welsh mother and English father. He might have gone to one of the Welsh regions but opted instead for Saracens.
He said: “I had a few options but wanted somewhere I felt was best for my development. When you took out the fact they were European champions and looked at things objectively, that was Saracens because the way they treat young players is second to none.”
“I’ve got to prove my worth now and hopefully I can impress with some guys being away. I’m relishing this opportunity and it’s the best place to develop my rugby.”
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