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Zach Mercer – England U18s and Bath No.8

Zach MercerZach Mercer has been a sensation at school level this year but he is about to take on his greatest challenge yet when he tours South Africa with England U18s in August.

The Merchiston Castle No.8, who will turn 18 next Sunday, started the year by being named Player of the Tournament at the prestigious St Joseph’s Festival and, after a successful FIRA tournament in France back in March, he was named in John Fletcher’s squad to take on the Springboks’ next generation.

Mercer moved to Scotland four years ago when his dad, former Rugby League international Gary, was offered the defence coach role at the Glasgow Warriors and, although he ended up representing the Scots at U16s level, he admits the Red Rose was always his dream.

“I played for Scotland U16s but I always wanted to play for England and luckily I was invited to an U18s training camp in Leeds just after the New Year,” he told The Rugby Paper.

“I ended up playing against Scotland in Newcastle which was a bit weird because I knew a lot of the players. I then played against Wales and was picked to go to France where I started all the games.

“It’s been a great year so far and I can’t wait to test myself against some big and physical South African forwards.

“I’ve never played against Southern Hemisphere opposition so it’ll be interesting to see how they play the game. I felt comfortable at the FIRA tournament but I know I’m going to have to raise my game to compete against these guys.

“I’ll be sad to be leaving Scotland and Merchiston Castle because of what they’ve done for me. Being there for the past two years has given me the chance to play against the best schools in Scotland and England which challenged me and made me improve.”

Mercer’s accolade at St Jo’s Festival came under the watchful eyes of Bath scouts and they were quick to offer him a place in their academy.

With school soon out of the way, he will move to the West Country full-time next season and he can’t wait to get going.

He added: “I played for the Bath A-team against Somerset a few weeks back and that was eye-opening. It was only my third game of game rugby and the physicality definitely ramped up.

“It’ll take some time to adapt to it but I’m relishing the challenge. I like when older guys try to smash me. Rugby is not easy and you can’t just go through the gears. You have to work hard to impress and that’s what I’ll be looking to do at Bath.

“I’m starting there on July 30 and I can’t wait to get going. Training every day with the likes of Leroy Houston, Sam Burgess and Francois Louw will be great for me. These guys have been there and one it and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from them.

“I like the way Bath play the game. I get a bit of stick from the coaches sometimes but I like to sit in the back line and play in the wider channels like Kieran Read does.

“I’ve been given an opportunity to do something that I love every day and get paid for it. That’s pretty amazing to be honest and I intend to do the best I can to grab my chance with both hands.”

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