World Cup 2015: Wales' Francis 'bitter' at English school days

Tomas Francis
Tomas Francis was born in York
Rugby World Cup
Hosts: England and Wales Dates: 18 September-31 October
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra, BBC Radio Wales and in Welsh on BBC Radio Cymru, plus live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website.

Tomas Francis hopes to make Wales' World Cup squad having been "bitter" at being overlooked at schools level in England.

The 20-stone tight-head prop says he was almost lost to the sport.

But the 23-year-old makes his Wales debut in their World Cup warm-up against Ireland on Saturday.

"I wanted to play rugby, but when I reached sixth form I hadn't been picked up and I didn't fit in the English system," said Francis.

"There was a bit of bitterness over that."

Francis had been a pupil at the school of former England captain Will Carling and centre successor Will Greenwood.

He went on to sixth form at Ampleforth College, where Greenwood's fellow England 2003 World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio had been a pupil.

At the University of Leeds, Francis' ambitions began to be rekindled by his coach, Andrew Boyde, who was then a Doncaster player.

"He asked me over at Christmas - a time of food and drink - to go over to keep fit, and then Doncaster signed me," recalled Francis.

From there he went on to London Scottish, then Exeter where his Welsh ancestry - grandmother Eirlys is from the Swansea valley - brought Francis to the attention of Wales.

A call-up to the Wales 2015 Six Nations squad followed before Francis was given the chance to continue his World Cup challenge on their training camps in Switzerland and Qatar.

Wales' World Cup pool games
Sunday, 20 Sept, 14:30 BST: Wales v Uruguay, Millennium Stadium
Saturday, 26 Sept, 20:00 BST: England v Wales, Twickenham Stadium
Thursday, 1 Oct, 16:45 BST: Wales v Fiji, Millennium Stadium
Saturday, 10 Oct, 16:45 BST: Wales v Australia, Twickenham Stadium

That experience has left Francis feeling "in the shape" of his life after topping 24st while at university.

"I started to change my lifestyle towards the end at London Scottish and then made the next step at Exeter and the next step again now," he said.

"I enjoy pushing my body to see where I can go."

Francis says the training camps have made Wales "stronger and closer as a group".

He added: "In one evening session in Qatar we did a fitness test straight into a fitness session, which was pretty severe.

"Trying to cool down afterwards was tough, with a mad scramble to get into the air-con.

"It was a runways fitness test, then repeat shuttles for speed - three sets of those. We were running the same distance we had been doing in Wales, but in the heat at the end of a long day.

"You couldn't cool down and your boots were squelching from the second repetition, but nobody dropped out, everyone finished and pushed to the end.

"That's what it is all about, those are the sessions that make you."

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