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Young Gun: Jack Walker – Leeds & England U20 hooker

Jack WalkerFor the last few years it’s been his older brother Chris making the headlines at Leeds Carnegie, but fresh from beating Australia with England U18s, hooker Jack Walker is ready to step up.

Walker Snr has been a regular member of Carnegie’s first team for the last three years, with the back row representing England at U16s, U18s and U20s, including captaining the U20s to the 2012 Six Nations title.

Both are seen as long-term prospects for the Yorkshire club, with Chris signing a new two-year deal there in April 2012 at the same time that his younger brother signed on for four years.

But it is this season that hooker Jack has started to shine, becoming the youngest forward to appear for the club at 17 years and 160 days when he made his first senior club appearance against Bristol in October.

A week later, he became the youngest forward to start a game when he played an hour at home to Gala, also in the British & Irish Cup, and shared the pitch with his brother for a few minutes.

Previously captain of England U16s, Jack has represented England U17s and U18s, most recently starting in their 23-3 victory over Australia Schools.

“I’d played for the England age groups before but this was the first time I had played Australia,” he said.

“I remember watching my brother Chris play them and it was an equally tough and physical game.

“It was crazy walking on the pitch knowing you are representing your country, it’s hard to explain the feeling, nerves, excitement at the same time.

“This season I made my first appearance for Leeds when I came off the bench against Bristol and then I started the week after.

“The previous game I came on as my brother went off the pitch but we managed some time together against Gala, I think it was a very proud moment for my mum.”

And while his family continue to support his progress, the one figure unfortunately missing is his father Johnny, who died suddenly in January.

A player of both rugby codes, former Otley and Batley man Johnny remains one of Walker’s biggest inspirations.

“My dad was a massive role model for me, he helped me through my rugby,” he added.

“He had a blood clot, it was all very sudden and it was a shock for everyone.

“Dad used to play rugby and my mum Sue was a swimmer for Zimbabwe. With Chris also playing rugby, you could say sport runs in the family.

“I started in the backs and played No.10 but soon realised I was not quite quick enough for it and now play hooker. I’m looking to make my dad proud.”

And while he readily admits his fly-half days are over, Jack revealed that a trip to Toulon and a rugby masterclass from Jonny Wilkinson – a reward for being named Jaguar Academy of Sport 2012 Rising Star – remains among the highlights of his fledgling career.

“It was mad getting to meet Jonny,” he added. “I went out for two days, he taught me so much, not just about rugby but also how to do things like media commitments.

“He was very nice, very professional, I think that’s why he has done what he has. Everything he does is 100 per cent.

“I consider myself quite motivated but he was a massive inspiration.”

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