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Charlie Sharples

I joined the Gloucester Rugby Academy in 2004 as a 14-year-old and was selected by the academy coaches Carl Douglas and Mark Hewitt after they watched me play for Gloucestershire U15’s.

My favourite memory from the academy is training in the old gym in the Lions Den at Kingsholm. The Lions Den is the oldest building in the stadium and if you ever go in there you will notice that the rubber floor has a distinctive smell. For me as a schoolboy, training in the Gloucester Rugby gym, where I knew all my rugby hero’s trained, was such a special feeling. Every time I walk back into the building now and get that smell, it brings back my first memories of being in the Academy.

I was offered my first contract from Gloucester Rugby while I was in Year 13 at St Peter’s school. The senior academy was a lot smaller back then, I think there were about eight of us in total but we still trained separately to the Senior Squad. After about six months into my first season, one of the first team wingers left the club to go back to rugby league and Bryan Redpath (backs coach at the time) rang me up to say I had been called up to train with the senior squad.

Growing up I played for Wycliffe School, Dursley Rugby Club and St Peter’s School.

I vividly recall being at an academy presentation in a room full of the most talented schoolboy rugby players in Gloucestershire. I remember the coach saying that a few of us in that room might go on to play for Gloucester Rugby one day and I sat there wishing and hoping that I would be one of them. Now, 18 years on, and in my 15th professional season I know my dreams came true.