When local boy Gabriel Hamer-Webb was inducted into Bath’s academy this summer, little did the pacey former Walcot RFC junior realise the impact he was about to make.
Few fresh-faced youths expect to be thrust into first team action so early in their professional careers, but the Larkhall-raised, Beechen Cliff School product was handed a baptism of fire in the Premiership Cup before making two Premiership appearances, taking it all in his stride.
After starring in the hard-fought win over Northampton last month, Hamer-Webb said: “I only turned 19 in early November and this is my first year, so to be involved in games and having an impact is something I had no idea would happen. I’ve pushed on through it and it’s been brilliant.
“After three Premiership Cup games, I came on at Wasps in the league and got 10 or 12 minutes, which was unreal. They were such a good side and it was a brilliant game so you have to pinch yourself a little bit that you’re taking the field alongside such amazing players.
“Then, against Northampton, after coming on early I got to half-time and it was like, ‘wow, I’ve still got another half to go’, but I’m just trying to make the most of my chances.”
Had things worked out differently, Hamer-Webb might have been kicking a round ball instead. He explained: “I was a footballer before I made rugby my main sport around 15 or 16 and I’d been to a few academies around the country. I played centre-back for Bristol City and Southampton and my last club was Yeovil Town before I left football to go full-time at Bath.
“It wasn’t a case of thinking football wasn’t going to happen for me, I just enjoyed rugby too much to give it up, so I followed my gut and went for it. I really got into my rugby at Beechen Cliff and then obviously the Bath Academy/Beechen Cliff AASE set-up is great because it pushes boys on. Bath want a squad that is 50 per cent homegrown, which is really good.”
Citing Cheslin Kolbe, Rieko Ioane and Julian Savea amongst overseas back-three players he admires, Hamer-Webb also has decent role models closer to home.
“Anthony Watson is at the top of his game right now, plus Semesa Rokoduguni’s special and I really admire Tom Homer,” says Hamer-Webb. “I don’t have one person as a mentor as such, I’ve just tried to create good relationships with all those guys. With Roko and Aled Brew, I’m just peppering them with questions and trying to pick their brains.”
As for seasonal targets, Hamer-Webb adds: “England U20s is something I’m really trying to push for but that’s a long way away at the moment. Firstly, I’ve just got to keep pushing for selection here and really improve myself to be the best that I can be.
“My power, speed and overall physicality are good assets, but I’m also trying to push on my mental side as well to read the game better tactically.”
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