Get to know the hot-stepping Harlequins winger

Hotshot: England U20 wing Cassius Cleaves

Date of birth 15 March 2003 Born Wandsworth Position Wing Club Harlequins Country England

When did you first play rugby? 

At 11. I started in Year Seven at Wimbledon College. It was mixed feelings at first – a bit too much contact for me! Now I love it.

Have you always played in the backs?

I started off as a prop – I was a big boy when I was younger! Then I moved into the backs when people realised I had a bit of gas. I enjoy wing. I used to hate it, thinking you get a lot more ball in the centres, then I realised you could move off the wing!

Any childhood heroes? 

Players like Jason Robinson – I watched a lot of YouTube videos of him. As I got older, I started to watch NRL and Kalyn Ponga is definitely one of my favourite players.

Outside of rugby, Muhammad Ali. My parents named me after him so I heard a lot about him growing up. He was a ridiculous athlete. My parents loved his attitude and the way he went about his career with no fear.

Talk us through your rugby journey… 

I was brought into Harlequins pretty early, Year Seven so 12 years old. I started playing club rugby for Wimbledonian Warriors because that’s where all my friends from school played.

I love my sevens and in Year Nine, Wimbledon College won the Rosslyn Park Sevens and I got picked up by Wellington. So in Year Ten I started a new life at boarding school. I signed a contract with Quins in upper sixth.

What are your strengths? 

I’d like to think my speed, my footwork, especially in close contact. Footwork is something I pride myself on, with the amount of video reviews and practice I put into it.

And work-ons? 

My defence. I want to be one of the wingers no one wants to run into, I’d like to have that about me.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 

My mum, Jacqui, has definitely been a big one. She tried to get me into rugby before it was compulsory at school. She comes all over the country to watch games.

Also my mates. When I was in my last year at school, I was hesitant about whether to play rugby or pursue my education. I could have strayed away from rugby but my mates kept me going to training.

What would you have studied if you had gone to uni? 

Philosophy. I’m looking to do an Open University course next year.

RW Verdict: England U20 wing Cassius Cleaves has long been on the radar following his feats at schoolboy level and he is set to shine on the senior stage too, especially given Quins’ attacking mindset. As he jokes, he has a name to live up to!

This article originally appeared in the May 2022 edition of Rugby World.

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