James Percival looks to Wales for Test spot

James Percival playing for WorcesterWorcester second row James Percival  has had talks with Warren Gatland about switching allegiances from England to Wales.
Despite being part of the England U21 team that won the 2004 Grand Slam, Percival represented Wales Schoolboys and has Welsh blood through his grandmother on his father’s side.
The 29-year-old is playing the best rugby of his career topping the Premiership stats for locks in ball carrying and tackling.
Percival told The Rugby Paper that having declared his availability to the Welsh management, the ball is in their court.
“I feel I have something to offer at international level,” he said. “I am the top ball-carrier and tackler among second rows in the Premiership according to Opta stats.
“International rugby is a massive goal of mine. It is the pinnacle of your career. It would be a massive honour.
“If someone believes in me enough to play international rugby I will give them 100 per cent. I am as proud of my Welsh heritage as I am of my English heritage.
“I played for Wales Schools when I was 18 and then got put into the England age-grade system.
“The team manager at Worcester (Alun Carter) is Welsh and it was him who mentioned it to me.
“The possibility had always been there but because I had played for England U21s and come through their academy set-up I had not thought of it. As I had only played age-grade rugby  I am not tied to anything.
“My agent has been in touch with Warren Gatland so the Wales management know of my eligibility and I am just keeping my fingers crossed something happens.”
Percival was rested for yesterday’s Amlin Challenge Cup match away to Perpignan after a series of barnstorming performances.
They have coincided with an upturn in the Warriors’ fortunes in which they have beaten Perpignan, Saracens and took champions Quins all the way.
The 6ft 5in lock had the captain’s armband in those games and feels the club’s show of faith is bringing out the best in him.
He said: “The new coaching set-up with Nigel Redman, Phil Larder and Phil Vickery under Richard Hill has definitely helped me. They believe in me and that goes a long way on the pitch.
“Being captain is a huge honour and I thrive on that extra responsibility.
“It was pointed out to me that I was making 22 tackles a game without missing one so even Phil Larder, who is a hard man to please, could not complain.
“I always think I could have done better. I am never satisfied and want to keep pushing myself.”
DANIEL SCHOFIELD

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