|Weight||102kg (16st 0lb)|
|Caps||0 Test appearances|
Ten appearances for the England U20 side foreshadowed even more recognition for Crewe-born James Gaskell when he became the youngest captain in the history of English professional rugby in September 2010 and scored a try on his Saxons’ debut against Italy A at Worcester the following January. His fourth consecutive start against Tonga in the Churchill Cup at Kingsholm in June last year brought an outstanding, ball stealing line out performance.
He first led Sale Sharks against Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership at the age of 20 years and 106 days and also surpassed the Sale record held by Alex Sanderson, who was 49 days older when captaining the side for the first time.
James, who had then played in only 14 Premiership matches, was appointed by former All Black Mike Brewer, then the Sharks’ head coach, but suffered a setback in October 2010 with an ankle ligament injury in training. When Peter Anglesea took over from Brewer in December 2010, England wing Mark Cueto became captain.
By the end of last season, James had played in 50 Premiership matches for the Sharks and celebrated his half-century of games with his fifth try in the competition, against Newcastle Falcons in March. His second European game against Cardiff Blues in October 2009 had also brought a try and the man of the match award and three months later, he strode away for a stunning, 45 metre Premiership try against Harlequins at Edgeley Park.
James, lithe and athletic at the line out and around the field, had represented England U16 and was a powerful contributor to the U18 team being unbeaten in 2008. They won all four domestic internationals and maintained their record on tour in Argentina. His first U20 cap was against Italy in January 2009 and his Saxons’ call two years later came as a replacement for the injured Tom Rees. He captained the side in both matches last winter against Ireland Wolfhounds and Scotland A.
His rugby origins were at Sandbach School when he was 12 and he appeared for Sandbach RFC from 2002-07. Other honours include being Sale Academy Player of the Year and representing Cheshire U15 – U18 and North U16 but his most memorable match was the IRB U20 World Championship final against New Zealand in June 2009.
After that, he embarked on reading Geography on an Open University course but fondly recalls those who have helped in his rugby development. School coaches Simon Robertson and Richard Pickles, together with Sale Academy coaches James Wade, Anglesea and Phil Leck are on the list, alongside Kingsley Jones and Byron Hayward at the Sharks’ senior level.
His father Pete had the distinction of playing at Twickenham - in the 1977 UAU final.
Last updated: September 5, 2012