There’s a new accent in the Wales U20s squad this season.
We can’t be sure that Freddie Chapman’s favourite dishes involve jellied eels and pie and mash and it’s still not clear if he’s managed to get his head around Chas and Dave.
But the Ospreys forward is a fully fledged Essex boy who is on the bench for Byron Hayward’s team when they face France in the U20 Six Nations clash in Oyonnax.
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His family background is anything but rugby. Indeed, the loosehead prop’s brother was attached to West Ham FC as a youngster and his father played 600 or so games of semi-professional football, but Freddie opted for the oval-ball sport.
He qualifies for Wales via his grandmother from Pontypool.
He made it into the Elite Essex set-up as a youngster and also represented Saracens at U18 level.
But it’s still a fair old diversion into Welsh rugby.
How did it come about?
The tale involves a chance encounter with Welsh rugby’s genealogical tracking system, a call from Ospreys development director Mike Ruddock and a number of meetings before decisions were made.
“It was at the end of college,” said Chapman. “We ended up going to a sevens tournament and the Welsh Exiles were there. My coach at the time was from Wales and he said I should sign up, then Gareth Davies [of the Welsh Exiles) ended up getting in contact with me.
“We had a few calls back and forth and after that; Mike Ruddock gave me a call. We had a couple meetings which resulted in getting a date to come down and do a bit of training for two weeks.”
There was no Rolls Royce put on to ferry the new kid to training, though.
Instead, he found himself cycling 10 miles a day from Swansea to the Ospreys’ headquarters in Llandarcy and back again.
“When I first arrived I couldn’t drive,” he said. “The only thing I really had was a bike and I didn’t know the boys well enough to grab a lift every day. It was tough, I was waking up at 5am, sometimes in the pouring rain, to cycle to training. But I wouldn’t change it. It’s pushed me to where I am.
“I had to get used to the city and I actually ended up living with Mike Ruddock for a few weeks which I enjoyed. I learned a lot from him. He’s a rugby legend.”
Chapman's progress is an example of the Ospreys' pathway potentially bearing fruit, with the youngster seen as one who could come through.
His dad and brother were both goalkeepers and Freddie tried his hand as a left back, but “probably wasn’t the best”, with the youngster eventually deciding rugby was for him.
He has settled in area and money has started to come in: “I’ve been working behind the bar at St. Helen’s to try and get a bit of extra money.
“I’ve also just got a new job doing some security which is a zero-hour contract, which is very flexible for me, it allows me to do my training and then just pick up some spare shifts.”
But rugby is the big focus, especially after his call into Wales’ U20s Six Nations squad, a turn of events he didn't see coming. “It was very sudden and a bit of a bit of a shock. I’d attended some testing sessions and some camps. The Scotland game was around the corner and I was told that I wasn’t selected, then I got a call just after to say I’d been called into the squad.
“Not long after, I ended up getting an email to say I’d been selected for the Six Nations. I was with my nana and grandad at the time. They were over the moon.”
Chapman is on the bench for Wales U20 in their testing encounter in south-east France.
He is popular and can play the game. He is also determined.
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