By Rob Cole
He couldn’t help Cinderford stave off relegation a few seasons ago, but now Wales’ Grand Slam wing Josh Adams is steeling himself for a massive fight to keep Worcester Warriors in the Premiership.
From the best team in the northern hemisphere, and the second best team in the World Rugby rankings, Adams will this week turn his attentions to hauling the Warriors out of the bottom two in the English Gallagher Premiership as they attempt to avoid the dreaded drop into the Championship for the bottom side.
Last season’s top scorer in the competition, Adams has a lot to be thankful to the Warriors for. It was they who helped him resurrect his career after being released by the Scarlets. The Welsh region’s loss was certainly the English side’s gain, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for him when he arrived at Sixways.
Adams may have scored Guinness Six Nations tries in three successive matches in Wales’ march to a 12th Grand Slam – he also made the break that set-up Tomos Williams for a vital try in Paris – yet only two years ago he was running out for Cinderford in National League One.
He was one of three men signed on loan by Cinderford director of rugby Paul Morris during their ill-fated 2015-16 campaign that saw them relegated from National One. He played six games for the club and wasn’t the first player to benefit from his time there.
Freddie Burns, Sam Underhill, Harry Williams and Ben Morgan all turned out for Cinderford before going on to receive full international honours, although Adams is their first Welsh cap.
“We have not played a big part in these players getting international honours but we have played a part in their rise. I love to see players going on to fulfil their potential having represented Cinderford,” said Morris.
“I sent him a congratulations text from the club when he won his first cap and we got a very nice response from him. Josh always had the talent, he just took a bit longer to adapt to full-time rugby.
“As a club, we are very proud of him for what he has achieved. The talent was plain to see with Josh when he was here, but he wasn’t fully focussed – he is clearly focussed now and has adapted to professional rugby.”
Undaunted at his slide down the playing scales to loan spells at Cinderford and Nottingham, Adams eventually worked his way into the Warriors starting team the next season and finally made the grade with Wales when he was picked out of the blue by Warren Gatland to play against Scotland in 2018.
Since then he has become one of the first picks for the Wales head coach and can boast four tries in 11 tests, 10 of which he has won. Last weekend’s win over Ireland in the Principality Stadium was the icing on the cake.
“There were definitely no Grand Slam thoughts in my mind when I was playing at Cinderford. I just wanted to get a couple of games under my belt to be honest,” said Adams.
“I wasn’t playing for Worcester, so it was good to go back to old school roots, proper club rugby, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then, and I’m loving every minute of it.
“I’ve had 11 caps, thoroughly enjoyed all of them, and to top it off with a Grand Slam is what dreams are made of. It would have been nice to have kept the try-scoring run going, but I’m happy with the three I got in this championship.
“The whole squad have contributed really well and we couldn’t have done it without the collective effort, and that includes the backroom staff. After all the hard work we’ve put, in we thoroughly deserved it.
“The majority of the group from the undefeated autumn came through into this Six Nations campaign, and that was a big confidence boost for this group. We have just been really hungry to succeed.
“The trophy presentation was the highlight, without a doubt. I would give up every try I’ve scored in this campaign to be standing on that podium as Grand Slam winners, and lift that trophy.
“It was a bit surreal and I’m still on cloud nine to be honest. It was a great day to be wearing red, from 1-23 everyone who came on made a real impact and we were unlucky to concede a try at the end.”
While the majority of the Welsh squad will be preparing to do battle against each other in the regional derbies in the Guinness PRO14 this weekend, Adams has headed back to Sixways to rejoin Worcester’s fight against relegation with a game at Bristol.
“I won’t be taking my medal into training – there are a few England boys in the group, so I don’t think I could rub it in too much. I’ve sent the picture to our WhatsApp group, though,” added Adams.
Not that the Welsh wing’s thoughts will be solely fixed on domestic rugby when he returns to the Midlands. Having made such an impact during Wales’ 14 match unbeaten run, he now wants to stay on track to play at the World Cup in Japan.
“We’ve got another level to go, and we know that. We’ll enjoy this, go back to our clubs and reflect on it, and come back together and look forward to Japan,” said Adams.
“We know the quality within the squad, and we’ve got fantastic, world class coaches. We trust the game plan, execute it the best we can, and the results take care of themselves.”