As Tom Willis looks to continue his climb up the rugby ranks, he has the perfect role model to emulate right in his own family – world champion older brother Jack.
Jack – who is two years Tom’s senior – joined Wasps’ senior academy from Henley College ahead of the 2015/16 season, won the World Rugby Under 20 Championship with England in 2016 and became a regular in Wasps’ first-team squad during the 2016/17 campaign. And Tom was soon on a similar path.
Tom describes his proudest moment in club rugby as his Aviva Premiership debut against Saracens on 8 October 2017 and it was made all the more special as the then-18-year-old came on to join his brother in the Wasps back row.
Jack was also on the pitch, and in fact captain, when Tom made his first Premiership Rugby A-League appearance for Wasps against Exeter Braves in 2016.
And of the experience, Tom said: “Jack made it very easy for me and it helped massively to settle my nerves.”
Tom has also demonstrated his leadership abilities by captaining England U18s against Wales during their summer development tour to South Africa in 2017.
He then earned his first call-up to the England U20s squad in January 2018 ahead of that spring’s Six Nations.
Reading-born Tom first took up rugby as an eight-year-old for Reading Abbey RFC – the club that his father Steve, who also had a spell at London Irish in the 1990s, played at for 25 years.
Having initially attended Highdown School, he played in the AASE League for Henley College once he reached the age of 16 and was dual-registered with Rotherham Titans for part of the 2017/18 season, gaining experience in the Greene King IPA Championship.
Tom attributes James Honeyben, one of his coaches at the Wasps junior academy, with giving him a good understanding of the game and describes Honeyben as “the most committed coach I have worked with”.
Away from the pitch, Tom says his proudest non-rugby moment is his family looking after and making a difference to many foster children’s lives.