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Botham determined to make every minute count

First Team News | 28th November 2019

Cardiff Blues youngster James Botham is determined to make every minute count, after making his European debut in the recent Challenge Cup double-header.

The back row marked his European debut with a try in the away victory over Calvisano, and was a replacement in last week’s defeat to Leicester Tigers at the Arms Park.

The Sedbergh School alumni penned his first professional contract with Wales’ Capital Region earlier this year.

Botham, who has also featured for Cardiff RFC and Cardiff Blues A this season, has enjoyed his added responsibilities with the senior team and is confident he can offer his side versatility in the back row.

Speaking at the Guinness PRO14 launch at Cardiff City Stadium, the back row said: “It’s been an interesting season on a personal level. I’ve played for Cardiff at the start of the season and also in the Celtic Cup, but there’s been a couple of injuries and it’s given me an opportunity to step up and play for the first team.

“I think I’ve taken those opportunities pretty well, but it’s about hopefully having more opportunities and taking it from there and see what I can do.

“I want to get more experience to gain more rugby knowledge. Playing for Cardiff RFC has been great in terms of game time. I’ve had a few injuries over the last couple of years, so I’ve been able to show that I can play a string of games back-to-back now.

“But the step up to the PRO14 and European games is something else. I’ve found it very beneficial and hopefully I can feel that benefit in the future.

“When someone asks me where I can play, I’d like to think I can cover the entire back row - six, seven and eight.

“I’d love to have a crack at number eight, and if I can nail that down and have it in the armoury then it would be great moving forward for myself.

“At the moment, I’m mainly a seven, so I want to keep working on my turnover game and hopefully it will fall into place and I can be playing quite a bit.

“You look at rugby at the moment, and you’ve often got sevens who can play six and it’s about what the team wants and what the coach needs for specific games.

“I’d probably like to focus on being in a number seven jersey, but that in itself presents opportunities at the blindside, and there will be a few more work-ons if I want to offer myself as an eight as well.”

The Blues return to Guinness PRO14 action and head to Italy this weekend to take on Benetton Rugby, who currently sit two points ahead of John Mulvihill’s side in Conference B.

Botham insists the side are fully focused on the task ahead and turning narrow defeats into wins, as they look to get the campaign back on track.

“I wasn’t involved in the first couple of games, but we’ve had a mix of good and bad this season so far.

“But now I’ve been involved a couple of time, it’s been about doing what I can in my role and do my best for the team, in order to get those wins.

“I know there’s been a lot of games where we’ve lost by small margins and that’s something we can certainly improve on and correct, and I think there’s a lot of good rugby to come.

“When we click, and have all the boys back in the squad, I think we’ll be flying.

“But it’s one of those things you have to take game-by-game and make sure you don’t look too far ahead.

“As soon as you start doing that, it’s when it starts going to put.

“We’re concentrated on Treviso at the moment, and know what we want out of that, which is a win, then we’ll be able to move onto Pau after that.

“There’s no point dwelling on the past and what’s to come, we’re all just focusing on the next game and challenge ahead.

“We had a tough meeting early in the week, but there was a lot to take on board. We needed to have that and be honest as a group. We’re able to identify what needs to be done to move forward and get back on track.”

Botham is one of a number of young academy products to feature for Cardiff Blues in recent weeks, with the likes of Ben Thomas, Alun Lawrence, Keiron Assiratti and Corey Domachowski also making appearances in the early stages of the season.

Botham’s regional team-mate and fellow back row, Shane Lewis-Hughes, joined up with the Wales squad for the first time this week, and the 21-year-old sees his achievement as an inspiration.

He added: “There’s a lot of young boys coming through, and our team is very young. A lot of people will be disappointed with some of the results, but you also have to look at the long term picture as well.

“There are a lot of young boys coming through with a lot of potential. Looking forward, it’s exciting to see what’s going to come with the young talent and how the boys manage to gel together as a group.

“Shane’s call-up certainly gives boys like myself a motivation, and I’ve played with him from under-20 international rugby and he’s always been 100 per cent in everything he does.

“I wouldn’t say the call up was out of the blue, he deserves it. When you look at who’s in the back row, there is a lot of strength in Wales but he fully deserves his place.

“He’s put everything possible into it and he deserves the opportunity to go out there and show what he’s got.”