FRESH FROM his two try haul which inspired London Welsh to a late bonus point at Worcester last weekend, James Lewis has now set his sights on helping the Dragons finish the regular season on a high when they face Nottingham at Old Deer Park on Saturday (2pm).
The 23-year-old centre joined identical twin brother and scrum half Rob at Old Deer Park in November from Cardiff RFC after a pre-season trial at Sale.
James crossed for a try on his debut for Welsh in a 34-9 win at Birmingham & Solihull in the Championship, and added to his tally last weekend at Sixways after coming on as a second half replacement.
“They were so far ahead we had to run everything and throw the kitchen sink at them and that’s what we did and it paid off,” said James.
“Every time we scored points I’d look at the scoreboard and look at the time to see how long we had left.
“I reckon if we had another ten minutes we could have just caught them – we were chipping away and we weren’t that far off in the end.”
The defeat leaves Welsh needing to beat Nottingham on Saturday and hoping the Cornish Pirates slip up at Doncaster if the Dragons are to finish third. But despite that defeat to the Championship leaders James believes Welsh can still take a lot from the game.
“They’re the best team in the league and we know now that we can compete with them if we play with the intensity we showed in the second half,” he said,
“We got caught off guard a bit in the first half and Andy Goode just kicked the ball endlessly and perfectly, and we couldn’t do anything about it.
“But the second half we raised our game and showed we can live with them if we play to our structures and with a high intensity.”
James has settled in well at London Welsh but while his arrival to join twin brother Rob may have caused a few double takes down at Old Deer Park, James doesn’t see what all the confusion is about.
“At birth they said we were 98 per cent identical, but you can tell there’s a massive difference between us,” he said.
“I’m thinner in the face he’s a bit rounder – the boys give him gip about that.”
James cut short a three-month pre-season trial at Sale as he didn’t see a future for himself at the club, and instead went back to playing part-time rugby for Cardiff RFC.
He sent his dvd to London Welsh and then out of the blue, with Welsh suffering an early season spate of injuries in the backs, he received a call from the club.
“Keeping in touch with Rob I knew Welsh were having backs problems with injuries – they had four players out at one stage – and that’s when I first sent my dvd to them,” he said.
“I literally got a call one Tuesday to get down here for the next day, so I packed my stuff and came and lived with Rob. I grasped the opportunity because I want to play full-time professional rugby.
“It was hard coming in but I’ve never had a reception like this, all the boys and the coaches have been really friendly. It’s a real family community and everyone just welcomes you.
“I feel sorry for Rob, though. When I turned up he got a lot of stick ‘you’re the worst twin’ and ‘the ugly one’.”
His arrival once again reunited the Lewis brothers after a few seasons apart. Having played together at Ebbw Vale and Newport Gwent Dragons, as well as for Wales at U18, U19, U20 and Sevens [James also played Wales U6], Rob left for Neath and the Ospreys.
The pair continued on their separate ways in 2009, with Rob joining Welsh and James heading to Championship rivals Coventry.
They would enjoy contrasting fortunes as Welsh reached the Championship semi-finals, while James experienced relegation with Coventry.
And as if that wasn’t enough, when the twins lined up against each other at Old Deer Park that season, it was Rob that took the family bragging rights as Welsh dished out a 51-13 defeat on Coventry.
The brothers had already made a name for themselves at underage for Wales, with James scoring an outstanding try in the U19 Six Nations Grand Slam decider against France in 2006, while Rob was Wales’ top scorer in the campaign.
Both have also made a reputation for themselves on the sevens circuit and in February 2008 they became the first twins to represent Wales in senior rugby when they played in the IRB Sevens tournaments in Wellington and San Diego, alongside future London Welsh team-mates Aled Thomas and Lee Beach.