LLANELLI, Wales (AP) — Being born in Wales was always important to James Botham.
Even though he was a toddler when he moved to England where his English father played club rugby and league and his grandfather was one of England's greatest cricketers, Botham insisted as a kid on his bedroom being red and the three feathers of Wales being prominent.
As soon as he got his driver's licence, he was taking the 500-mile round trip from his home in Sedbergh in the Yorkshire Dales to Cardiff -- sometimes twice a week -- to train with the Wales Under-18s and the academy at Cardiff, his father Liam's old club.
That passion will pay off on Saturday when the 22-year-old Botham makes his senior Wales debut against Georgia at Llanelli in the Autumn Nations Cup.
With only 13 professional club matches behind him -- four this season -- Botham is benefiting from injuries to loose forwards Josh Navidi and Ross Moriarty, and the need to rest Cardiff Blues clubmate Shane Lewis-Hughes and Taulupe Faletau.
But Wales coach Wayne Pivac has had an eye on Botham for a year and has been impressed with what he can do and who he is. And Pivac is keen to find talent to replace an aging side.
Cardiff Blues coach John Mulvihill adds, “He has got some physical aggression, is hard on the ball, and a very good ball carrier. He brings massive energy to people around him so we are looking forward to seeing him in a Welsh jersey.”
The coronavirus is preventing family and friends from attending the milestone match at Parc y Scarlets, but Botham says he’s sought advice, including from his grandfather Ian Botham, who knows plenty about the spotlight and big stages.
"(Ian) says, ‘Be professional about it, ignore the haters you will always get, keep your head down, try and become the best you can, and the perks come with it. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Enjoy yourself -- that's the main thing,’” James says.
"I knew of it (Botham's spectacular cricket career), but it wasn't really until I got told by my gran.
"We were all playing cricket in the garden and he's got a cigar in one hand, which he put in his mouth, and a glass of wine in the other with a cricket bat.
"I did ask the question to my grandmother, ‘Was he any good at cricket?’ She said, 'He was all right at some point.’”
James was in bed on Sunday night when he was called into the Wales squad for the first time.
“It's happened fast and I did not think this would be the case this week. Since I was a kid I dreamt of this moment. I am over the moon and thrilled,” he says.
"I couldn't thank everyone around me more for helping me get here and giving me the opportunity.”
Just 72 hours later he was even more surprised to see his name in the starting lineup.
"I was just looking at it thinking this can’t be real. But it is. I can’t wait to go out there now.”
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