Last season started how it was supposed to for Josh Skelcey: First team debut for Northampton against London Irish in the LV=Cup, beating the Australian Schoolboys with England U18s and helping the Wanderers reached the A-League final.
The Junior World Championship in New Zealand with England U20s was next on the agenda for the 19-year-old but a shoulder injury in January brought an abrupt end to what looked to be a breakthrough season.
That meant he watched his good mates Sam Olver and Howard Packman being crowned World Champions from his sofa. But, seven months on from his injury, Skelcey his back and ready to catch up on lost time.
He made his long-awaited return on Friday in the Premiership 7s Series and while he admits it wasn’t perfect, being back on the pitch in front of his own crowd was what mattered.
“Last season started well but I injured my shoulder playing against Coventry for the Wanderers. I dislocated it and I had to have an operation on it,” he told The Rugby Paper.
“I would have loved to have been involved in New Zealand with the lads but I was very happy for them. Hopefully I can do the same this year.
“I was pretty nervous before the start of the tournament on Friday but once I got on the pitch it all went well.
“I was a bit rusty but it was nice to blow a few cobwebs out. The support at the Gardens was amazing and it was great to be back.
“I felt pretty tired at the end of each game but it was to be expected for my first outing in seven months. My injury is fully behind me now and I’m rearing to go.”
Skelcey was late to come to rugby as he played football until the age of 13. But he started playing for his school at the Queensbury Academy as well as joining his local club Dunstablians.
Northampton were quick to spot his potential and enrolled him in their EPDG programme before signing him up as a full-time academy player and eventually handing him a professional contract last summer.
Now fully fit, Skelcey hopes to make more appearances for the Saints this term before hopefully going to Italy next summer to finally play in a JWC.
“I only started playing rugby at the age of 13 and two years later I was picked up by Northampton to join their player development programme,” he said.
“I then went to Moulton College for my Sixth Form where I played in the AASE League along with the Academy league for Saints.
“I never really thought about a career in rugby until I was selected for England U18s. I’m now hoping to get more first team appearances this season as well as making the England U20s side for the JWC in Italy next summer.
“I’m a pretty strong runner and I like to run off my wing and get involved in the middle of the park but working on my kicking game is crucial to reach the next stage of my career.
“We have some of the best players in the world playing for us like George North but if I get the opportunity I hope to take my chances.”
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