Sep 10, 2018
Meet Saracens Academy: Joel Kpoku
Next up in our ‘Meet Saracens Academy’ series is Joel Kpoku, the lock who starred for England Under-20s in the summer.
What was it like being called up by England U20s for the first time?
I found out through our academy manager Mike Hynard. Personally, it was a shock as I missed a big chunk of the season through injury and only really played four games prior to the call-up which was a massive achievement.
Your debut came soon after against South Africa. Was it anything like you’d played in before?
Playing my first game with the red rose on my chest was a very emotional and an exciting moment for me as you’re obviously playing with and against the best players within your age range. It was honestly the best day of my life. It was a very physical game up front with their pack being tremendously strong and powerful especially around their set-piece.
You went on to start every game for the Under-20s in the World Rugby U20 Championship. What was that experience like?
That was a massive achievement for me; not only to get selected but to start every game was a very special moment for me and the family. It was an unreal experience playing against the best players from around the world and one I’ll forever be grateful for. Looking back at the tournament it was a physical and mental challenge as we had to play five games within 18 days but one I was relishing to complete.
Then came a call-up to the senior England squad…
This came to me as a shock but it was something I was very excited about. I’d messaged my family’s group chat as soon as I knew and they were all proud and happy. It’s always good making the family proud as they’re my motivation. Again, this was the best day of my life, being called into the squad, a moment that I’ll never forget.
Family is obviously a massive thing for you. Your brother, Jonathan, featured for Storm in the opening round of the Premiership Rugby Shield. What’s it like having him around at Saracens?
It’s been good to have Jonathan in and around the club seeing him progress from the start of pre-season to now. Of course it’ll always be a competition as we both play second row for that jersey but funnily enough we haven’t really bickered as much as we did maybe that’s due to us living away from each other! It’s always good to have a relative in the same position as you can always talk about things we both need to improve on and give each other tips almost like intertwining ideas together.
You’re set for your first minutes of the season when Storm face Gloucester United in round two of the Shield. What are you expecting from them?
We’re expecting Gloucester to bring a forward-oriented team which will be a good contest for us as we have very young exciting pack, but we’ll mainly be focusing on ourselves and really take it to them on Monday night.