A 19-year-old James Coyle, then of Wigan, did this interview for Thirteen’s Young Guns page in 2005. Jason Emery, our Academy expert, provided the questions for me to put to James.
You toured Australia in 2001 as a 15-year-old with the North West Counties side, what are your memories of that tour?
We started off in Fiji which was a culture shock – very different to being at home! The houses were shacks and in the changing rooms people were trying to take our stuff! It was like being in a different world. Then we went to New Zealand which was a great experience. In Australia, I remember the style of play. They were really organised, much more than I was used to but we still got great results. There was David Allen, Harrison Hansen, Paul Prescott and James Roby on the tour too.
Did that tour help you prepare for your return to Australia with the England Academy in 2004?
Yes it did because we’d beaten them the first time so I was more confident that we could do it again.
You beat both the Aussies and the Kiwis on their own soil with the Academy – how did that feel?
It was fantastic. Probably the best wins I’ve been involved with. Against Australia we had a plan to get at their hooker [Michael Dobson] who we saw as a weakness. Then he went off after 20 minutes. We were 12-0 up but they came back and we were losing at half time. At half-time we said we’d start again and get back to what we’d done early on and it worked. Guys like Harrison Hansen, James Graham and Lee Smith were superb.
Is it a big step up in intensity from Academy Rugby to those internationals?
It wasn’t too different becuase a lot of us were used to playing under-21s, so even though it was an international we were still going back to under 18s. But we still didn’t have as much time on the ball and as many options as the game was quick.
How good would it be to beat them at senior level – do you have ambitions to go all the way and make the GB team?
I’ve not really thought about that. I’m just trying to get my place in the first team at Wigan.
In 2003, you were chosen to play hooker for England under-17s against the Australian Institute of Sport. Had you ever played hooker before and did you enjoy it?
It was different but I got used to it and did my best. The coach thought it was best for the team so I got on with it.
You recently made your Super League debut at Hull and then your full debut in the Cup game against Whitehaven, did you enjoy those games?
I only got ten minutes against Hull and I wasn’t too happy because I put in a couple of bad kicks and didn’t really get involved but the week after I knew I had a chance to prove myself. I thought I played a lot better and made a couple of breaks.
Did you expect to make your debut so soon? 19 years of age is quite young to be bossing a team around at Super League level.
I was told I was in with a chance of playing against St Helens on Good Friday but I picked up an injury beforehand. I said I could have played but they didn’t want me to play with a knock and be under any pressure. So they put me into the squad for the Hull game after a few guys got injured in the Saints game.
Having had a taste of Super League, are you content with those couple of games this year or has it made you hungry for more and more right now?
aviYeah I am, I can’t wait to get into the team.
Has Adrian Lam played a role in your rise at Wigan and what other coaches have assisted in your development?
He’s brilliant. He was one of the best halfbacks in this country for four years. He’s done everything hasn’t he? He’s captained Queensland and played in World Cups. He’s taught me more than anyone else has in the five months he’s been coaching here; specifically as a halfback.
The name Coyle has a great tradition at Wigan and now your younger brother Thomas is coming through the ranks. Can you tell us a bit about him? Does he play a similar style to you?
He’s just got in the under-21s and he’s only 16. He’s very similar in style to me.
Who was your hero as a youngster?
Andy Gregory. Especially playing at St Pats he’d talk to me after games and help me.
Do you model your game on him or anyone in particular?
I try and pick up the best bits of everyone like the kicking game of Paul Deacon, the speed of Sean Long and the stepping of Adrian Lam.