Darren Atkins started for England u20s in their first two games of this year’s Junior World Cup, joining an elite group of young players who cut their rugby teeth in Haywards Heath RFC minis.
His first experience of the game may have been based on non-contact fun in the u6s, but the JWC is a different and fiercely competetive experience in which young professional rugby players aim to set out their stalls in the professional game and for their country.
Injury kept Darren, 19, out of this year’s ‘Junior’ Six Nations, but he has already impressed in the JWC (taking place this year in Manchester), playing the full 80 minutes in both the big win over Italy and in last Saturday’s important and convincing win against much-fancied Scotland. He had a good all-round game, with his searing pace creating England’s second and decisive try. Hopefully, next up England will despatch Australia in their pool on June 15th and be on their way to the semis (June 20th) and final (June 25th), both live on Sky Sports.
Son of Reg ‘Bullet’ Atkins (founder of prominent Mid Sussex company, Park Cameras), Darren follows in the sporting footsteps of his siblings - Jason (Scottish Universities at hockey and football and ‘international’ football for Alderney!), Roscoe (Heath’s flying veteran winger), Caroline (England Women’s cricket), and Kirstie (a record-breaking swimmer at a young age).
Like James Chisholm, who is currently with the England Saxons squad in South Africa, Darren was just four years old when he first pulled on the red and black of a Heath shirt to begin his rugby journey. Whilst a pupil at London Meed School and later at Hurstpierpoint College Prep School, Darren played for several years at Heath, developing an early passion for the game and the key skills and core values - teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship - that characterise it. Family circumstances saw Darren move to Somerset where he joined Millfield School, for many years one of the country’s leading sport hotbeds, where Darren – a multi-talented sportsman - focused on rugby and was soon contracted into the pool of talented young players at Bath Academy, now combining this with a part-time degree at The University of Bath.
Darren is looking forward to England’s progress to the semi finals and, he hopes, to a JWC winner’s medal matching that won by James two years ago alongside Maro Itoje. After the Scotland game, Darren said, “Really enjoyed the game. A top performance from all the boys to get the bonus point win. It was made even more special to have most of my family there supporting me.”
If you would like to play senior rugby at a thriving local community rugby club, come along to Heath at Whitemans Green for touch rugby on Tuesday and Thursday evenings until July 12th when preparations for next season start in earnest. For more information visit www.hhrfc.co.uk
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!