Place of Birth: Surrey
Date of Birth: 11/04/199
Previous Clubs: Honiton, Exeter Chiefs, Cornish Pirates
Representative Honours: England U16-U19
Best rugby memory: Making my Premiership debut for Exeter Chiefs
Sporting hero: Jonah Lomu
Day job: Strength and Conditioning Coach
Charlie Wright (first published February 2022)
In his regular column meeting the players, Richard Kitzinger gets to know the exciting young Titans flanker, Charlie Wright.
It’s hard to believe Charlie Wright is only 22 years old. He knows his mind and he’s already made some big decisions. New to the Titans line-up this season, he’s not exactly a stranger to the club. His brother, Harry, will be familiar to many supporters and Charlie spent some time training with TRFC – when it was allowed – during the first year of the pandemic.
He’s a local South-West lad. His early rugby was at Honiton RFC where he played until Under 14s and, regrettably, his team folded. That meant that he had to move down the road to Sidmouth but he was lured back to Honiton, where his father was coaching his brother (TRFC’s Harry) in the colts. Young Charlie was already making waves. At home in the back row, he was playing two years up in his brother’s age group team but couldn’t get into the forwards so spent some time in the centres.
“Charlie is a quality player, and his level of professionalism has made him a great addition to the Titans squad, both on and off the field.” Tony Yapp, Titans Head Coach
It was on the flank that he earned age-group selection for Devon, then for the South-West region and ultimately for England Under 16s, playing alongside Ted Hill and a certain Marcus Smith. He was amongst the youngest, at just 15, to sign for the Exeter Chiefs Academy at the same time as Aaron Chapman and Marcus Street. A fixture in the England set-up until the Under 19s, Charlie left Honiton Community College to continue his rugby development alongside his studies at Bicton College.
He was just seventeen years old when he signed as a professional rugby player at Exeter Chiefs and had four years earning his living at Sandy Park. The stellar career trajectory hit its first major obstacle, however, at the same time as turning pro when he dislocated his shoulder. Following surgery he recovered, only to sustain the same injury on England duty six months later. When Charlie dislocated the shoulder for a third time a couple of years into his Chiefs contract, he underwent bone block surgery and since then the troublesome joint has held up.
Just as young Exeter players like Joe Simmonds, Tom Wyatt and Sam Maunder have done by coming on loan to Taunton in recent years, Charlie spent time with Cornish Pirates, though not gaining as much game time as he might have hoped. Then came the offer of a further contract with Chiefs but – much to the surprise of Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter – he declined it. “I was playing rugby,” he recalls, “but rugby as a full-time player was a job and I didn’t like the thought of it being a slog.”
“I liked rugby being a hobby. I wanted to enjoy it and I liked to be able to talk about rugby but doing it full-time, I didn’t want to go home at the end of each day having had my fill of it.”
“I was holding [tackle] bags all the time,” Charlie explains, “and got just three Premiership caps – against London Irish off the bench, I started against Wasps and I was a replacement against Gloucester. When Rob [Baxter] offered me my contract for this season I was only given a couple of weeks to think about it. I’m quite a particular person and I won’t ever jump into anything.” In making sure that he made the right decision for himself, he realised that he was enjoying being a Strength and Conditioning Coach, something that followed naturally from his degree studies at Exeter University.
“That was where my love was really,” he says, “being a freelance coach and not having rugby as my daily grind.” After taking stock and deciding not to pursue rugby professionally, he had to make a phone call to the Chiefs supremo. “Rob said it was probably the first time somebody my age had turned down a contract, but it wasn’t the right move for me.”
He left Exeter on really good terms with all the players and coaches and considers them all friends which, he says, is brilliant in terms of being able to go back and ask them anything he wants about coaching or strength and conditioning. Most importantly, though, he has rediscovered a love for the game of rugby.
“Now, I just want to get 100 caps for Taunton. I love this club.”
“Before I signed a rugby contract, I was immersed in rugby. I was always watching Jonah Lomu or Manu Tuilagi on YouTube – and I was loving it, it was all I wanted to do,” Charlie recalls. Several years later and he’s able to look at it through different eyes. “All those professional players are just normal blokes. I looked up to the likes of Jack Nowell and Henry Slade through my teens. Then one day I realised I’m friends with them. They’re normal people.”
Ultimately Charlie wasn’t excited or fulfilled by a lifestyle where he was expected to train from 8am until 2pm and then fill the rest of his time with… “With what? I can’t just go out and have coffee every afternoon. I’m the sort of bloke that needs to be busy.”
Charlie knew Tony Yapp from Exeter University and asked his former coach whether there might be an opening at Titans. It wasn’t a tough decision for Taunton’s Head Coach who says, “What’s always impressed me has been Charlie’s attitude and work ethic. When he said he was interested in moving to Taunton, I didn’t hesitate in trying to get him on board.”
Titans’ new back rower hasn’t looked back, claiming, “It’s competitive here but I’ve felt valued, I’ve felt I can come in and give my all as a player – and as a person.” There’s no doubting his contributions have been recognised. Though one of the younger members of the squad, he has led the team out on several occasions when George Gosling has been injured or hasn’t started games.
Away from the rugby field, Charlie is working as Strength and Conditioning Coach (alongside Tony Yapp) at Blundell’s School and, with his brother Harry, has set up his own company offering online coaching. Train Wright Performance works with athletes, giving them training insight and nutritional knowledge that talented young sports people typically don’t access until it’s too late. On the books already are a GB athlete, several rugby players, swimmers and long-distance runners to cite but a few examples.
“We’re giving them the best version of strength and conditioning, mentoring and recovery. We provide them with a professional training programme so they can access professional information even if they’re not necessarily going to make it to elite level in their sport.”
Train Wright Performance delivers its offering via an app enabling youngsters to access top-level resources from an early age. “Nutrition, strength and conditioning, injury rehabilitation… we give them loads of different stuff so that for these young athletes, the sporting world is their oyster.”
Charlie Wright is giving young sportsmen and women the benefit of his knowledge, training and experience but there’s reason to believe he’ll be giving that to Taunton Titans for a long time to come and that can only be a good thing.
Richard Kitzinger is writing in our match day programmes as well as on the Taunton RFC website. Richard is a Will Writer and all club members are entitled to a 25% discount on Lasting Powers of Attorney with him. Call him on 07504 991893.