It’s always interesting to follow the path of an exciting young talent who displays some “x factor” in their game from an early stage. So it was with some interest and a great deal of satisfaction to hear the news that Val Rapava-Ruskin had been selected by Eddie Jones in his England training squad due to meet next week ahead of the World Cup later this year.
So why would the selection of a Georgian born prop currently plying his trade for Gloucester in the Premiership be of any interest to Blackheath supporters? Well, if you turn the clock back some 15 years you would find Valery to give him his full name, an essential and central member of the Blackheath minis group. Starting his rugby career at the Rectory Field, from around the age of 8 onwards Valery was a key member of his age group side at Blackheath. With good hands and powerful legs, Valery made a major contribution to the success of his team as they progressed through the age groups. He featured in the team that won county festivals and the National Festival at Twickenham at Under 10 level in 2003 and went on to even better achievements as he matured. In the early days he was a marauding No. 8 who would always take 2 or 3 tacklers to bring him down, thereby creating lots of space for his team mates. His good footballing brain and clever hands meant he was regularly scoring tries as well.
The son of a Blackheath and Georgia second row, Valery had rugby in his blood and his rugby career developed from his early days at Blackheath. He captained Georgia Under 19s, spent time at Toulon and in South Africa and he then signed professionally with Worcester, where he spent a few season before signing for Gloucester. Last season was a tough one as he was sidelined through injury but the contribution he did make was enough to encourage Eddie Jones to select him for his training squad.
With plenty of experienced loose head props ahead of him in the international pecking order, it is unlikely that Val will make the final squad for Japan, but at 26 he still has plenty of years ahead of him and who knows, he might well feature in the next World cup squad.
So next season, when the wind and rain is lashing on a Sunday morning, look closely for the boy who has the “x factor” in Blackheath colours. He might just be a future international in the making…
Val pictured standing second from left in Blackheath colours back in 2003.