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Young Gun: Lewis Boyce – Leeds and England U18s prop

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Lewis BoyceLewis Boyce wants to forge a career as a loosehead against the grizzled old warhorses in the Championship – so it’s a good thing he has boxing as one of his hobbies.

Learning the ropes in the lower leagues is a rite of passage for international props these days: Dan Cole cut his teeth at Nottingham while Joe Marler enjoyed a stint at Esher.

Boyce, 17, is part of the Leeds Academy and is relishing getting his education at the coalface.

“That’s what I’m looking to do, get as much time in the first-team as I can and learn the trade of being a front row, I haven’t been doing it for all that long,” said Boyce.

“Some senior pros get stuck into you but that’s all part of it, I enjoy the physical side of it, that’s why I switched from back row.

“Rugby isn’t that big in Middlesbrough, when I was younger I was really into my boxing. I didn’t do it to a very high level, it was more of a hobby, but it’s something that I really enjoy.

“I keep it up as much as possible still, just to keep fit, really.”

Boyce has already made his mark at international age-group level and yesterday he played a key role for England in their fourth consecutive U18 European Championship final in Poland, having also been part of the squad that lifted the crown 12 months ago.

And while Leeds may be outside of the Premiership, it is clear that Stuart Lancaster and his age-group coaches are casting their nets further afield.

In the England U20s squad, Leeds duo Paul Hill and Jack Walker were part of the front row that helped the Red Rose to second in this year’s Six Nations.

And Boyce is determined to follow in his teammates’ footsteps.

“To see players like Paul and Jack, who are front row teammates of mine at Leeds, go on and play for the U20s has been massive,” added Boyce, who made his first appearance for England U18s last year.

“It really gives you confidence to see players who you know and play with on a regular basis going on and making the step up.

“They’re good mates and it’s great to see them more than holding their own at that higher level – playing with them has definitely brought my game on.

“The focus has been the Europeans in Poland but I am already thinking ahead to next season and trying to do what they have done and be involved in the first team.”

Boyce has a taste for bloodying noses against the odds – last year he was part of the England U18s side that defeated the Leicester Academy.

And earlier this year, he got his chance to take on the England seniors – lining up against Mako Vunipola and Marler as sparring partners for Lancaster’s charges during the Six Nations at their St George’s Park training base in Burton.

Boyce adds: “I really admire both Joe and Mako and what they are doing at the top level; they’ve been in the same position I’m in now and they’re doing really well.

“Doing that kind of training with them is a great learning curve and it also gives you confidence because it helps you see the pathway to the seniors and it makes it more of a realistic goal.

“You see the success that they are enjoying and the success that the U20s enjoyed at the Junior World Championship last year and you don’t want to let them down when representing the U18s.”

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