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Youngster Bradley aspiring to follow in the path of famous footsteps

Blues News | 28th November 2020

With a name like Gwilym Bradley there was never any doubt around the family allegiance and the young open side flanker is excited to follow a well trodden path at Cardiff Blues.

The Wales Under-20s international has only been training with the senior squad for a few weeks but after making his debut against Leinster last week the Bath University student is poised for his first start.

Bradley will pull on the famous number seven jersey as the Blues take on Glasgow Warriors at Rodney Parade on Sunday evening (7.35pm).

So how did the 20-year-old who grew up in South-West London end up in the Cardiff Blues system?

Bradley said: “I grew up in south west London and I was with London Irish through the age grades up until the end of Under-18’s. 

“Throughout that I was involved in the Welsh Exiles doing all those events. That culminated with me being selected for Wales Under-19’s a few years ago and we played England at home and lost. 

“Gethin Jenkins was forwards coach for that which was when I first met him. I got picked for Wales Under-20 the following year and Gethin was there too. 

“He was the link which brought me to the Blues. We got on well and he saw in me what I was like as a player and what I could produce. I’m really thankful he brought me to the Blues and I’m very thankful for that.

“With a name like mine we were always Welsh fans in our house even though we were in England. I always felt very Welsh and we were always back in Wales with family.

“Mum is from Newport. Every Christmas we used to come down and watch Blues vs Dragons on New Year’s Day. To think now I’m playing for the Blues is pretty incredible to be honest.”

Bradley, who spent time with London Welsh during lockdown, came off the bench during last weekend’s heavy defeat in Leinster but it would undoubtedly have been an invaluable experience for the flanker.

He has impressed the coaching staff since linking up with the squad after Shane Lewis-Hughes and then James Botham’s call-up to Wales left back-row resources stretched.

With Olly Robinson, Josh Navidi and Ellis Jenkins remaining on the sidelines, Bradley is the last specialist seven standing and John Mulvihill saw enough last weekend to hand him a start against the Warriors.

He continued: “It’s been amazing. I’ve only been training with the first team for three or four weeks. I’ve had to learn fast, but the boys have been really helpful to me in terms of gelling and learning. I’ve really enjoyed being exposed to a higher level of rugby so far.

“Leinster was a great experience in terms of being able to fly over to Dublin. They’re 25 or 26 games on the bounce and are a great side with lots of quality. To be able to come off the bench and feel what it’s like to play against a team like that was a great experience.

“It was a disappointing result against Leinster but now we’ve got a great opportunity on Sunday against Glasgow at home. With the boys away with Wales hopefully it gives me a chance to break through and have some more opportunities.”

Growing up in England but a proud Welshman, Bradley naturally looked up to Sam Warburton, Richie McCaw and up and coming English Premiership stars such as Jack Willis, who is now making an impression on the international stage.

Rugby League and more specifically the NRL has also had a major influence on the 20-year-old and he is now thrilled to be taking his first steps on a well trodden path.

In recent times Sam Warburton, Josh Navidi, Ellis Jenkins and most recently James Botham have all progressed through the ranks, starred for Cardiff Blues and pulled on the Welsh number seven shirt.

Bradley added: “I’m 20 now so growing up it was Richie McCaw and Sam Warburton – they were the two main sevens at the top of the world stage. More recently I’ve looked at the guys in England coming through like Jack Willis who are more my age and generation. 

“I look at them and also watch a lot of rugby league and NRL. I take a lot of the aggression, intent and tackle technique from there. It’s a combination of technical and tactical aspects of the best sevens and the grunt and aggression of the NRL players.

“We’ve got the sevens here at the Blues now and Sam Warburton has come before. It’s definitely an inspiration seeing the path trodden and the footsteps before you.

"We’ve got an embarrassment of riches in the back-row. We’ve got Jim and Shane, Olly and Ellis. The older boys have been watching film with me and helping me with tactical stuff. Jim and Shane on the pitch help me know what I’m doing on the pitch.

“Jim went to a school in England just like me so it’s a similar sort of path he’s taken. He’s playing with Shane in the back-row against England which is amazing and that’s what I’m aspiring to as well.

“But it’s only been three or four weeks since I’ve been up with the seniors and only a couple of months in the academy. I’m pleased with how I’ve gone, but I’ve got to keep on pushing, developing, and learning. I’ll see how far I can go in the next few months with Europe and the Christmas derbies coming up.”