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Warlingham rugby club has star quality

16 December 2008

December 16, 2008

Surrey-based rugby club Warlingham has been celebrating the successes of two of its former junior players - Jonathan Gill, who with his boy band JLS finished runner-up in the ITV talent show The X Factor (Saturday December 13), and Tim Catling, who scored three tries for Oxford University in the Varsity Match at Twickenham Stadium (Thursday December 11).

Both attended Whitgift School in South Croydon, where they played in the school's teams alongside Danny Cipriani, the London Wasps and England fly half.

Gill - or JB as he is known in the group - has just celebrated his 22nd birthday. He played for Warlingham and Surrey through to Under 18 level, where according to former team mate Rory Child: "He was a good wing and centre but decided to go down the music route in the end."

Gill returned to Croydon in the week before his TV final to perform before 3,000 screaming fans at the Fairfield Halls.

"He'd be welcome to perform at our Hamsey Green clubhouse any time," said Derek Child, his former club coach at Warlingham.

On the X Factor, judge Simon Cowell told Gill and JLS that despite their defeat in the public vote to Alexandra, he still expects them to have a high-profile pop career, dubbing them the best band ever to appear on the show.

Catling also learned his rugby playing for Warlingham's minis and junior sides, before becoming becoming the first Oxford student in 88 years to score a hat-trick of tries in the Varsity Match, as Oxford beat Cambridge 33-29.

Catling, though, already had experience of playing in a winning team at Twickenham. Ten years ago, he had played an important part when Warlingham's youngsters won an under-11s age-group final at Headquarters.

"He was a bit of a beanpole even then," Derek Child recalls, "but he always was a very good rugby player, and very quick." Catling, 21, is now 6ft 3in tall and weighs 15st. He is reading Oriental studies at Pembroke College.

Catling's Warlingham sides, who included the London 3SE club's current first XV full back Rory Child, twice played at Twickenham, winning both times in national age group competitions. "Tim was an elusive fly half with a step that often sliced through the opposition's defence," Rory remembers.

Catling left Warlingham at 15, when signed up by the London Irish Academy, but they never offered him a playing contract. After his Oxford performance, he is considering playing rugby full-time once he has completed his degree studies - which will require a long-term visit to Japan next year.

"First and foremost I have got another year of studies at Oxford but I'd like to take my rugby career to the highest level it can go," Catling said. 

Warlingham, after having last weekend off, are hoping to have several first team regulars fit for selection. Street missed last month's 20-9 victory over PJF at Hamsey Green due to concussion, but is hopeful his side can claim another win to maintain the pressure at the top of the league table.