Fresh off the back of a brilliant World Cup campaign, The Guide caught up with England and Bath star Jonathan Joseph. Derby born Joseph played centre throughout the World Cup and has been involved with the England team since making his debut against South Africa in 2012 and was a pivotal member of the Grand Slam win in 2016 and the 2019 World Cup. Rugby is something that has always been in his blood; a life in professional rugby seemed likely and Joseph was willing to commit to it early on.
‘It was always something I wanted to do from a very young age. I always loved the sport and playing for a living seemed like a good idea. The commitment involved a lot of discipline and drive. It’s a very competitive game, which requires hard work and determination.’
The life of professional sportsmen and women is tough, as it is not always glitz, glamour and glory. The modern game has brought with it new challenges that are testing and trying; the rise of social media and the length of a demanding season means athletes lives can be difficult and Jonathan Joseph acknowledges this.
‘Obviously constantly being in the spotlight can be quite tough. This is especially true with social media; it can be hard to escape. Also the length of the season, rolling from a World Cup into a full season at your club can be mentally and physically draining.’
Whilst the professional game is challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding and there can be no greater reward than to compete at a World Cup. After playing in the 2015 World Cup and the results not favouring England, the 2019 World Cup was an excellent chance to stamp their authority in the rugby world. Under the leadership of Eddie Jones, England prepared diligently, leaving no stone un-turned, and for Joseph intensive training went beyond just the team sessions.
‘Individually you have to make sure you’re in the best shape you can possibly be in, physically and mentally. I went and did speed work in Loughborough pre the World Cup camp. As a group you need to put effort into team cohesion so that you bring yourselves as close together as possible. Obviously the coach will look after the tactical side though.’
The 2019 World Cup was held in Japan, the first time for an Asian country to hold the prestigious tournament. Japan is well known for how interesting it is and how much it has to offer and for Joseph it was an amazing destination that helped to make the World Cup even more special.
‘Japan was an incredible experience. It was such a beautiful country and a fantastic culture. It is very polite and very, very clean. Not only that but it was different to life in England, but this made for a really enjoyable experience. There are plenty of things there to explore and enjoy.’
Rugby is a sport steeped in tradition and is often praised for the life lessons it teaches its players. It holds values that can be taken into all walks of life and modesty and humility are principles that are emphasised amongst the rugby community. For someone that is at the top of their game and is in the public eye, Joseph is very grounded and down to earth and is quick to acknowledge that being a professional sportsman is a privilege.
‘I keep reminding myself that I’m very fortunate to be in the position I’m in. I also believe to not waste any moment because your career is short lived and you don’t want to look back with any regrets. Enjoy it for what it is. Rugby is a fantastic team sport, and I think the word respect covers all aspects of the game.’
A World Cup Final for many athletes is the dream, the ultimate goal, and only a small percentage are lucky enough to play in one. The pressure and magnitude of such an occasion are evident for anyone to see. Everything is on the line, the whole world watching. A common question is how do athletes cope under these situations, but for Joseph the run up to the World Cup Final was no different, it was business as usual.
‘We approached the World Cup final as we would approach any other game. I know personally I didn’t feel any different going into this game, and that was down to the environment we were in. We deliberately wouldn’t get distracted by external factors.’
As someone that has had a distinguished career in rugby already, there have been many achievements for Jonathan Joseph both individually and as part of the England team. Someone clearly with immense ambition, his triumphs will not stop there, there is plenty more to come and this attitude shows in his rhetoric.
‘I’ve been fortunate enough to have some incredible achievements in rugby, individually and as a team. For me personally my proudest moments are winning the Grand Slam, beating Australia 3-0 down under and obviously getting to a World Cup Final. I’d love to make another World Cup and go one better and I’d also like to achieve some silver wear with Bath.’