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James Lay joins his brother back in Bristol colours

Manu Samoa prop, James Lay, has found his home in rugby after the recent World Cup: he will be joining his brother Jordan on the other side of the world.

The pair both play in England’s Premiership Rugby for Bristol, where they returned shortly after the end of Samoa’s Rugby World Cup campaign.

James saw his first action since on Saturday, starting at loose head for Bristol Bears A in their 54-7 win over Oxford University, but he won’t be forgetting Japan 2019 any time soon:

“It was definitely and honour and a privilege to be able to put on the blue jersey at a World Cup," he said. 

“It’s even more special when you do it with your brother in the team as well.”

James (25) made his World Cup debut off the bench against Japan, replacing Jordan (26) at the front of the scrum.

“When I was young I always thought what would it be like to play at a World Cup,” he said

“It’s always one of those crazy dreams you have… but you never really think you’re going to get there.” 

That was James’ 12th test cap, and he said playing for the Manu never gets old:

“It feels like it’s the first time every time in this team.”

From the village of Safotu, James was two years old when he and his family moved to Kataia, New Zealand.

He and Jordan both attended high school at King’s College in Auckland on scholarships.

“We both played first XV there, but I’d say he was the more jock kinda guy, James said.

“Jordy was always more into rugby, he was doing all the age-grade stuff in Auckland.

“I was kinda just doing it for fun really, enjoying it because all my mates were doing it.”

James describes himself as a late bloomer in the sport:

“While I was at university I realised that rugby could be a huge thing for me and that’s when I sort of really put my mind to it and started setting goals.”

He started a Bachelor of Business at Auckland University of Technology after school, which was put on hold (James is a semester away from finishing) when professional opportunities with Bay of Plenty, then after a Manu debut in 2017, Bristol came up.

“Not making it early was probably the best thing for myself,” James said.

“I got to see more of the world and what else is out there.

“I just feel blessed every time I put on a rugby jersey and run out, because I know very well what I could be doing.”

He said he doesn’t want rugby to define him and that it’s important to have a couple of things going on at once:

“Education’s always been a key focal point that mum and dad wanted us to have.”

James and Jordan both joined Bristol in 2018, and are in their second season together with the pair both off contract afterwards.

“You just take that time to really enjoy what we can, because we don’t know where we’re going to end up,” James said.

The brothers live together in Bristol, along with Jordan’s partner.

“She holds the reins a little bit, keeps us intact and she’s always looking after us,” James said.

He said Jordan’s partner has to play mum with the pair so far from home:

“For me anyway, I’m always getting told off by them!”

James said England is an awesome place to live, with very welcoming people.

“The fans are a lot more crazy for the game over there as well,” he said.

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