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Young Gun: Josh Bayliss – Bath flanker

Making his first team debut seemed an unachievable goal for fresh-out-of-school Josh Bayliss at the start of the season, but his dream came true in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and he is now looking for more.

The young back-rower left Millfield School last summer and joined the club’s academy in a bid to one day earn his first professional contract.

Getting a taste of senior rugby was his objective but injuries to Taulupe Faletau and David Denton shook up the pecking order in the back row. Zach Mercer and Tom Ellis were given starring roles in the first team and it opened the door for Bayliss to make his senior bow in the Cup against Leicester back in November.

“I never expected to make my first team debut this season but I’m very happy about it and I’m glad I got this amazing opportunity to play in the Anglo-Welsh,” he said.

“Seeing Zach do well and him being only one year older than me made my dream much more real. He was doing great. All a sudden it became an achievable goal for me too and it spurred me on.

“Todd Blackadder has been awesome with the academy players. He’s been great at giving young guys the opportunity to represent the first team. He and Tabai Matson have been brilliant since they arrived and everyone is desperate to play for them.

“Senior rugby is definitely a step up from school last year but I’ve enjoyed it and after a while, with the reassurance from my teammates, I felt like I belonged at this level by the end of the season.

“I played a few games for Clifton at the start of the season which was a great way for me to get introduced to men’s rugby and I’m very grateful for everything they’ve done for me.

“Blindside flanker is where I’ve been used most of the season but I’ve also had stints in the second row and No.8 – as long as I’m on the pitch I don’t really mind what number I have on my back.”

Following such a good start to the season, Bayliss was selected to represent England in the U20s Six Nations where he contributed   two tries in three appearances on their way to the Grand Slam.

On Friday, he flew out to Georgia for the Junior World Championships as England look to defend the title they won in Manchester last season.

He added: “The camp in Guildford has been tough but it’s been very enjoyable and we’re looking good for the Junior World Cup.

“We’ve had a good Six Nations but it’s a different competition and our squad is slightly different too with some players injured or being promoted to the England senior squad for the tour to Argentina.

“I can’t wait for the opportunity to play for England again.

“Doing well in Georgia would be great for us as team but also personably as it’ll give me a big boost for when I go back to Bath and start pre-season.

“You never know what’s going to happen next season but I’m looking to keep grafting and maybe another chance to play first team will arise.”

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