NOTTINGHAM Rugby recently announced the signing of four players on-loan from Gallagher Premiership club Leicester Tigers. One of those faces joining the club will be 18-year-old Emeka Ilione.

Supporters of rugby in the Nottingham area will, no doubt, be familiar with the name, as the youngster ever-popular at our neighbours Nottingham Corsairs.

Emeka began his rugby journey at Nottingham High School aged 11, before joining the Leicester Tigers Player Development Pathway at 13 – followed by the Tigers academy.

We spoke to Nottingham High School’s Director of Rugby, James Hamilton, who said: “I was lucky enough to work with Emeka as his Director of Rugby for 2 years whilst he was at Nottingham High School. He was always a highly professional student of the game, who asks questions and lead from the front.

“He is a player you don’t need to worry about watching, as you know he consistently works hard at all aspects of his game. I remember when on our Senior to the US and Canada in 2018, Emeka was up at 6:00 by himself training, whilst everyone else was in bed. This was dedication! To make it even more impressive he had a broken arm and wasn’t even playing whilst on tour. He just wanted to remain fit.

“The highlight for me is that he is returning home to his hometown club. Nottingham obviously has played a massive part in the shaping of the current game and if you shape Emeka, the way you supported Obano, Lewington etc, a big future will be in store for him.”

Emeka captained England U18s and is in currently in the England U20 squad, but his former Director of Rugby won’t be shocked to see him make the step up to senior level.

“I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, he gains a senior England cap and I know this ‘homecoming’ will be a massive help to him on his route to the upper echelons of the game,” said Mr Hamilton.

Midway through secondary school, Emeka joined our rugby neighbours Nottingham Corsairs at U13 level, who were coached by Tim Loveridge – now part of Corsairs’ committee.

The U13 age group that Emeka was part of went on to reach consecutive Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire & Derbyshire (NLS) Rugby cup finals – and it was then that Tim Loveridge knew the 18-year-old was going to be a success on the field.

“Emeka joined Nottingham Corsairs at U13s and you could tell from the outset that he was going to be a special player,” said Tim. He continued: “He was an integral part of our squad that reached four successive NLD Cup finals and really developed his skills and rugby knowledge during his time here.

“Everyone at Corsairs is so proud of what Emeka has gone on to achieve and it will be fantastic to have him back playing rugby at The Bay.”