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Cusick embraces challenge of senior rugby

After a whirlwind start to his professional career, Jacob Cusick has been quietly working away in the background as he looks to climb the ladder at Leicester Tigers.

One of the many rugby-playing youngsters who was dealt a blow in their progression through Academy ranks with COVID-19 seeing the cancellation of Under-18 League competition during recent seasons, Cusick was thrust into men's rugby in the club's opening pre-season fixture away to Jersey Reds.

However, his start was one to remember as the 18-year-old scored a try with his first touch of the ball in a side that included internationals Ben Youngs, Matt Scott, Freddie Burns, Hosea Saumaki - to name but a few! 

"It has been a great experience so far and hopefully helping me in terms of trying to make that next step eventually at Leicester Tigers"

Jacob Cusick

Since his pre-season appearance, Cusick made his senior debut for the club off the bench in the Round 1 win over Sale Sharks in this season's Premiership Rugby Cup before again coming on as a replacement in the record away-win over Wasps in Round 2.

Post-Jersey in the pre-season and Premiership Cup, Cusick has been playing for Nottingham Rugby in the Championship alongside fellow Senior Academy members Archie Vanes, Dan Lancaster, Sam Edwards, Tom Manz, Joe Browning and Tim Hoyt

Ticking off milestones almost weekly, the Tigers Academy graduate reached another last weekend with an England Under-20s debut in 54-24 victory over Oxford University.

Speaking about the experience in camp with England, Cusick said: "It was really good and nice to be able to get that opportunity to wear the England badge.

"The opportunity to compare yourself to the best players in the country in your age-group was a good marker for me.

"To experience a new environment, with that high-level of professionalism and quality players and experienced coaches was a good learning experience.

"Being in that camp environment gives you a chance to really work on the more professional elements of your game, with more time to completes those extra-extras in terms of preparation and recovery as well as the training."

Looking back on the game itself, he added: "I only had a half out there with the way the squads were split."

"But, it was a good game, a tough challenge against a good Oxford side with decent players including a couple of internationals."

The crowd was 2,000 strong, of which the majority were undergraduates at the famous educational institute, but there were some familiar faces on the fence-line for Cusick. 

"My dad and brother came down, they were very proud and it was nice to be able to share the experience with them," said the 18-year-old.

"But, to be honest, I was a bit disappointed my dad didn't cry - thought it might get him crying seeing me out there, but it didn't!"

As for his time with Nottingham, Cusick is embracing the challenge of men's rugby and chance to improve his game in his debut season as a Senior Academy member - and make the physical gains to continue to kick on.

"Physically, it's challenging to test yourself up against bigger blokes out on the pitch," Cusick said.

"But it has been a great experience so far and hopefully helping me in terms of trying to make that next step eventually at Leicester Tigers.

"For me, that main focus has been on strength and conditioning to get me ready for men's rugby.

"I'm looking to put on weight, get stronger and then fine tune those things I need to be better at - ball carrying, strong running in attack, those sort of things."

Cusick and his fellow Leicester team-mates on loan with the Championship club will return to training this week with Nottingham ahead of their away trip to Cornish Pirates on Saturday.