By looking at the tall, muscular, rugby machine, one might think that he is a full grown high schooler. Even though he plays on the JV team, he is in fact, eighth grader Russell Cornelius.
Cornelius was born into a rugby family. His dad is a former ASL rugby player and his brother is a current ASL JV and varsity player. Cornelius was bound to have a strong rugby career, and it all began when he was convinced by his father to play for Hammersmith and Fulham Rugby Club. After a few years of playing there and learning the basics, he moved to Ealing Trailfinders, which is another rugby club located in Ealing, London.
During this season Cornelius’ rugby has brought him to the Wasps Academy. Where arguably the best players in his age group have become a team. Cornelius made it to this academy because he was scouted. He was then selected to join one of their “camps of excellence.” The academy has three camps of excellence. Each camp consists of 100 scouted rugby players. After a few sessions the camps are cut down to 30 players. So, then there are 90 kids who go through more training and only the top 14 make it through to the team. Cornelius was one of them.
Cornelius has really enjoyed the challenge of playing in the academy team. He described it by saying “Everyone is just the highest level you could be. It’s just playing against the best players. They are huge too but they know the game and it’s just the best players they could find.”
Cornelius started the ASL season on the U14 middle school team. But it was quickly noticed that he was not being challenged enough so he was moved up to the high school JV team. Russell’s brother, Ryleigh is also a part of the JV team. “That makes me really happy,” said Cornelius. “That’s always been my dream to play with my brother.”
Playing up a year is also very good training for him. “It gives me the confidence to run against the big guys, which is helpful for the Academy.” Cornelius will continue to train and get better until competing in ISSTs with the JV team in the spring.