PORTSMOUTH’S JOE BATLEY PUTS CANCER SCARE BEHIND HIM IN WORCESTER MOVE

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When Joe Batley was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2018, he was determined not to let it define him.

His message was simple – ‘I will come back stronger’ – and the Portsmouth born rugby ace was true to his word.

But first he had to go through what he believes was the hardest part of the process – telling his mum by phone. “That phone call was the hardest thing out of everything I did,” Batley told Rugby Pass. “That was the main thing that was going through my head after getting the news – how the hell am I going to tell my family?”

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After a period of chemotherapy, the England youth international was given the all-clear to return, and he made his way back into training with the Bristol Bears.

A loan stint with the Leicester Tigers helped the 23-year-old to rediscover his form, and ahead of the 2020/21 season Batley can look forward to a new permanent home having signed a deal to join the Worcester Warriors on a one-year contract.

It’s part of a recruitment drive from the West Midlands club, who have also enticed former Exeter Chiefs forward Matt Kvesic and Wasps fly-half Billy Searle as well as three coaching staff from Bristol – forwards coach Jonathan Thomas, academy manager Mike Hall and scrum coach Mark Irish.

It was a necessary move with the Warriors languishing in tenth place in the Premiership at the point that the season was disrupted, and while they will be safe from relegation this term thanks to Saracens’ financial misdemeanours, clearly they will be among the favourites for demotion in the bookmakers’ Premiership rugby union betting odds next season.

That is something that Batley, invigorated and loving his rugby again, will be desperate to avoid.

There’s No Place Like Home

The 6ft 6in lock forward started his junior career at Gosport & Fareham RFC, whose senior squad could well be lining up against the Isle of Wight’s Sandown & Shanklin if their relegation is ratified. It’s a club that played a huge part in Batley’s development, and one that is ‘still very much part of my life’ as the man himself confirmed in an interview. He represented Hampshire at county level before moving on to pastures new, signing terms on a three-year deal with Gloucester.

A move to the Bristol Bears followed in 2017, and there he enjoyed almost instant success as he and his new teammates claimed the Championship title. Domestic honours would be followed by international joy, with Batley called up to represent England at Under-20s level. He and his fellow young Lions would go on to win the Six Nations, as well as participate in the World Championships.

He has shown tremendous character to bounce back both from his cancer diagnosis and a potentially career-threatening cruciate knee ligament tear, and Batley appreciates that signing a one-year contract with Worcester puts added pressure on him to perform straight out of the gate.

But given what he has been through and what he has achieved so far, only a fool would write off Joe Batley.

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