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Counties hooker moves from Intensive Care to international duty

14 March 2012

  • Counties call-up is icing on the cake for Sam Wilkes
  • Amazing recovery earns England squad spot

Cinderford RFC hooker Sam Wilkes will complete an amazing transformation when he plays for the England Counties against the Ulster Bank International Team at Preston Grasshoppers RFC on Friday night (March 16, 7.30pm).

Only four months ago he was in intensive care, suffering from a mystery illness that caused him to lose 4 stones in a month, putting him in a life-threatening situation for a week as the medics searched for an anti-biotic that could successfully combat the his condition.

“They had tried three without finding a cure and I was told that if the fourth didn’t do the job, there was nothing they could do for me.” says the former Clifton, Lydney and Cheltenham No 2. “It was finally diagnosed as a form of cellulitis, but it was a worrying time.

“Happily, the last drug did the trick and I was able to recover fully and get back to my rugby, but it took a while because I was so concerned about not rushing the rehab.

“When I was in intensive care I didn’t think that I would even be playing this season, so my focus was just on getting back to play for my club. To be called up for the England Counties is amazing.  I’m really chuffed about it.

“To come from where I was to where I am now is a real thrill. The first couple of days have been really good, but also very nerve-wracking. I’m not the most confident of players and I want to be able to train and perform to the best of my ability.

“In the club situation you have a couple of weeks at the start of the season to master the lineout calls, for example, but with the Counties there are only a few training sessions, so there is a lot of mental rehearsal to go into it.

“It definitely takes you out of the club comfort zone and while I’ve experienced the situation before with Gloucestershire, even then you have more than a week to get things sorted.

“On the credit side, you are among players who are the best at their club, which means that you can concentrate purely on doing your own job while everyone else is doing theirs. It’s challenging, but I’m really enjoying it.”

It’s a far cry from recent hospital experience of the agricultural contractor from Newent and while he may be out of his rugby comfort zone, he’s in a much more comfortable place than he was not so long ago.

England Counties squad:

Forwards: Dave Allen* (Blackheath), Rob Baldwin* (Wharfedale), David Dickinson (Tynedale), Matthew Hall* (Blaydon), Tom Mantell (Macclesfield), Lewis McGowan* (Sedgley Park), Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon), Robbie Hurrell (Stourbridge), Sam Wilkes (Cinderford), Sam Shires (Tynedale), Lee Starling (Ealing Trailfinders), Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon).

Backs: Phil Chesters (Ealing Trailfinders), Andrew Henderson (Barking), Peter Hodgkinson* (Ealing Trailfinders), Ross Laidlaw (Rosslyn Park), Philip Woodhead (Wharfedale), Chris Briers (Fylde)*, Harry Peck* (Tynedale), Owen Bruynseels (Ealing Trailfinders), Mike Waywell* (Fylde), Tom Wheatcroft* (Ealing Trailfinders).

*denotes previous Counties appearance


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