Carroll looking to lead St Joseph’s to victory

WHATEVER he goes on to achieve in his rugby career, one memory will live with Gabriel Carroll forever.

The sight of the triumphant St Joseph’s College players raised aloft on hundreds of fans’ shoulders after clinching the National Schools Rugby Festival will rival anything the promising Carroll achieves in the game.

12 months on, and the open-side flanker is now preparing to captain this year’s side as they look to defend their crown at this weekend’s festival – the 25th anniversary of the popular tournament.

Immensely proud to be given the job, Carroll might start with modest expectations – calling on his players to ensure they remain in the De La Salle Cup going into the second day against the cream of schoolboy rugby.

But Carroll is only following the example of his predecessor, Alex Day, the heartbeat of last year’s victorious team.

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The new captain explained: “To lead the team at the festival is a huge honour for me and something I will never forget.

“I was in the side last year that won the festival and I remember the pitch invasion with hundreds of people celebrating. It was a real highlight. Now the pressure is on us this year, especially it being the 25th anniversary as well.

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“I want us to be tough to beat and aim to get through the group and still be in the cup for the second day, then we’ll take it from there.”

Carroll’s rise to leading his school is not the most orthodox of tales.

Introduced to rugby while living in Hong Kong as a youngster, his family moved to Cork and then England where he was awarded a scholarship at St Joseph’s.

Carroll played his club rugby with Sudbury until he captured the attention of Northampton Saints, playing his first game for their second team, the Wanderers, recently where he lined up alongside one Alex Day.

As for his leading role with St Jo’s, he said: “The coaches were given me hints that I might be captain this year and they then told me to start preparing to lead the team.

“I just want the side to work hard and do their jobs and I will support them all the way.

“I also have experience in captaining England Under-16s against France so I am looking forward to leading the side out at the festival – it is a big thing for me.”

With Day among a few departures, last year’s stalwarts Chris Lord and Mike Di Ponio have been moved into the centre with England Under-16s pair, George Wacokecoke and Austin Beckett, replacing them.

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