Lord Ian Botham has admitted that should grandson James Botham play for Wales against England in the Autumn Nations Cup on Saturday, he would be cheering for Wales.
Speaking on the Will Greenwood Podcast, Botham discussed his grandson James – known in the family as Jimbo – making his rugby Test debut for Wayne Pivac’s Wales last weekend against Georgia.
The 22-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker has been in superb form for his club during the PRO14, and was rewarded with a start at blindside flanker for Wales, as they halted a run of six defeats with an 18-0 victory over the Georgians.
When asked who he would support in this Saturday’s Wales vs England Test, Lord Botham – whose own son Liam Botham enjoyed a professional rugby league and union career – conceded he would have to side with family.
“Blood is thicker than water. And to be honest with you, 99.9 per cent of the time I’m English through and through, but this might be that 0.1 per cent,” Botham said.
“Obviously I’m hoping he’ll [James] do really well. He’s got there very quickly, they’ve fast-tracked him.
“He’s just 22 so he’s got a long way to go, but I’d be the same as any grandad. And if you’re a grandad that says differently, you’re not a grandad in my book!
“I think he’s matured very quickly, particularly as a player.
“He’s come in, but has had some really good people around him which he acknowledged the other day when he received his cap – I thought that was good because in the moment of all the excitement you can forget those sorts of things.
“People like Sam Warburton, who was a bit of a mentor for him when he first went down to Cardiff. The Cardiff coaching staff, the senior players. And he was very keen to make that point, which shows a bit of maturity and understanding.
“But I think he’s in a very healthy and good position. He just wants to play, which is a great thing.”
As mentioned above, Botham’s son Liam forged his own professional rugby career, playing for the likes of Cardiff, Newcastle Falcons and Leeds Tykes in Union, as well as the likes of Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Wigan Warriors in league.
Never capped internationally, Liam Botham was selected on England’s 2000 tour to South Africa, but failed to appear in a Test. Yet, his experience has been priceless for the newly capped James.
“Yeah and the story goes there was a stomach bug which went through the England team, and Liam was rooming with Jonny Wilkinson who he was good mates with,” Lord Botham says.
“I think he was going to be involved in the final Test, but he went down overnight night with the bug, which was a big blow for him.
“Liam should have stayed at Cardiff, and I’ve always said that to him, because his scoring record there was phenomenal, and that’s what got him all the attention.
“He’s been brilliant for Jimbo, because he can talk at a different level to myself and anyone else in the family, because he’s been there, involved in it, and seen how it all operates.
“Admittedly, the game is more advanced or certainly a different format now to what it was, but without doubt, he’s been able to help Jimbo pick points out and technical points that I would miss.
“The first person Jimbo rings is his dad, and that sums it up.”
Grandson to an England cricketing legend, son to a man who was almost an England international, how has James Botham ended up a Wales Test player?
Was it a goal or a result of circumstance? Lord Botham confirms there has only ever been one nation for Jimbo.
“He was born in Cardiff, he’s played U18’s, U20s, he’s now got a full cap. He’s been Welsh throughout.
“People have spoken to him about England or whatever, but no, he’s had tunnel vision.
“His bedroom was done up when he was young, and he’s always wanted to play for Wales.
“He’s got there, and now he wants to stay there.
“The biggest danger in any contact sport is a serious injury, so let’s hope he avoids that. He’s had his share: a couple of broken ankles and his shin bone split when he was younger playing for Cardiff.
“Hopefully he gets an extensive run over the next few years of playing what he’s worked all his life to get to, which is to play international rugby for Wales.”