Droitwich captain James Shewell is just 80 minutes away from achieving every English rugby player’s dream – leading out a side at Twickenham.
The tighthead prop has led rejuvenated Droitwich through an unbeaten league and cup campaign which has seen them win Midlands Three West (South) and the Midlands Senior Vase.
Victory over league rivals Evesham in the Midlands final last month secured Droitwich a place in the semi-finals of the RFU Senior Vase and they will have home advantage against Lancashire club Tarleton on April 15 with a place in the final at Twickenham on May 6 at stake.
“I’m waiting for the nerves to start but so far the only feeling that I have got is excitement,” Shewell said.
“We’ve won leagues and North Midlands Shield competitions before but this is the semi-final of a national competition so has to be the biggest day in the club’s history.
“We’re expecting a big crowd – we reckon between 600 and 700 – and it will be a fantastic occasion for the club.
“Obviously when you get to this stage of the competition, you do think about the possibility of playing at Twickenham.
“Walking out there is what you dream of and to have the chance of leading out the side would be an unbelievable experience.”
Droitwich will defend a 26-match unbeaten record on Saturday which represents a remarkable turnaround in their fortunes as they were relegated 12 months ago with just one league win to their name.
“Pete Knight, the former Birmingham & Solihull and Dudley Kingswinford flanker, has come in as player/coach and he has made a big difference,” Shewell said.
“Pete lives locally and he decided to drop down a league or two and join us. Adam Drew has also come in as director of rugby having been successful heading up our youth section and I’ve come back to the club from Bromsgrove along with number eight Phil Horton.”
Droitwich’s coaching team also includes Worcester Warriors centre Jackson Willison who puts the squad through their paces at training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Willison was on the touchline when Droitwich beat Evesham in the Midlands final but he will be in action a few miles down the M5 on Saturday playing for Worcester against Bath in the Premiership.
“Jackson is very down to earth and he enjoys being involved at the grassroots level of the game. It’s been great to have someone with his experience coaching us this season,” Shewell said.
“He was with us when we won the Midlands final at Evesham. Unfortunately he won’t be there on Saturday because of his Worcester commitments, but I’m sure he would prefer to be at Droitwich.”
As well as Willison’s experience, Droitwich have benefitted from the return to playing of 46-year-old flanker Nick Godfrey who retired last season.
“He took up coaching but that didn’t last long so he’s back playing again. We share the same birthday but I was born on his 16th birthday, as I keep reminding him.
“I’ve played alongside him for 10 years now and he really is remarkable.”