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Callum Thornton has his sights set on rugby's summit

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: February 15, 2014

  • Young referee and rugby all rounder Callum Thornton from St Ives.

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IF passion and commitment count for anything, young Callum Thornton will soon be following in the footsteps of latest England rugby cap Jack Nowell into the upper echelons of the game.

Not yet 15, GEMS Bolitho student Callum has been hooked on the game since the age of 4, when he was taken to watch his uncle Andrew play for St Ives.

And it isn't just as a player that Callum excels – he immerses himself in all aspects of the game, including coaching and refereeing.

Indeed, after refereeing mini-rugby games for the Pirates' Under-8s last season, he is already refereeing senior rugby teams every Saturday and is one of the youngest refs in the country.

He acquired his refereeing qualifications last May at a two-day rugby course in Bristol, not long after celebrating his 14th birthday. Now a member of the Cornwall Rugby Referee Society, he takes charge of second team matches every week and is not daunted by blowing the whistle for players twice his age.

He has already handed out a couple of yellow cards and says that so far the reaction to such a young person taking charge has been very positive.

"Everyone's been very nice," he said. "It's great to meet new people and everyone has accepted my decisions.

"The only downside is the nerves that I get before the match – they're much worse than when I'm playing."

Callum also attends regular Friday evening refereeing seminars, which he rushes to after helping out with coaching the Pirates' Under-9s team after school.

As a player, Callum plays club rugby for Redruth RFC, captains his school team at GEMS Bolitho, and is in the Cornwall U15 squad and Exeter Chiefs Academy for U15s. Last month he became one of only two players in Cornwall selected to play 'up a year' for Exeter Chiefs Academy U16 team versus South West U16.

And it is as a player – he plays prop forward – that Callum hopes to progress, saying he would love to be a professional rugby player.

"I love playing in the front row, always being near the ball and getting involved in the physical side of the game," he said.

Gary Randall, his school PE teacher, feels that there is no reason Callum can't progress further.

"His progress over the last couple of years has been immense but he has opened up all the options with his work as a coach and a referee," he said.

"Three years ago I would not have said he had the potential to break through but now I believe he definitely has the potential to play at a very high level.

"That is down to his mindset – he has the commitment, passion and dedication."

Callum's father, John Thornton, paid tribute to GEMS Bolitho for helping to foster his son's talent.

"Callum switched schools a few years ago as he was dyslexic and hindered by large class numbers," he said.

"Bolitho offered smaller classes, greater individual pupil awareness and a use of sport to give confidence. A professional career in sport needs luck, but even if that is not achieved by Callum, he has been on a special journey."

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