They join a prestigious list of young rugby players who have been honored as recipients of the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship: Ben Pinkelman (2014), Hanco Germishuys (2015) and Brian Nault (2015).
As recipients of the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship, Chuck and Patrick will be provided a once in a lifetime opportunity: round trip airfare to Durban, South Africa; four weeks of professional instruction under some of the world's top coaches at the Sharks Academy in Durban; and accommodations. They depart on their adventure today and will return to the States on July 25.
Patrick French’s (pictured above) first experience with rugby was in 2005 when he began playing intramural rugby at his school in Colombia. Ever since then, Patrick has achieved a long list of individual accomplishments that have developed him into a promising young rugby player. From captaining his club team, the Coastal Dragons U18 team, to leading his high school team to win the Southern California Varsity Red Championship, and being honored as a member of the San Diego Select Side and Southern California Griffins, his leadership and skills have not gone unnoticed.
Off the pitch, Patrick has maintained a 4.38 GPA all the while playing rugby and being an active member in school clubs like Options and Derivative’s and 02 For Life. Upon graduating from La Costa Canyon High School, he will attend UCLA in the fall to pursue a business degree and a spot on UCLA’s first XV. During his collegiate career, he aspires to help lead UCLA to win the CRC Sevens.
Patrick is not only eager to improve his skills and techniques, but to also become immersed in the unique rugby culture South Africa has to offer. “I love traveling the world and experiencing new cultures, and I value every opportunity that rugby has given me to explore the globe,” said Patrick.
Ed Peterson, Coastal Dragons U18 head coach, said that Patrick’s passion for the game is what sets him apart from the rest of the competition. “The thing that stood out about Patrick from the beginning was his work ethic, and just how tough he was. He is a natural leader, the type that leads by example. Boys naturally look up to him, even if he is the shortest player on the field. I am so grateful that he has been awarded this scholarship. It could not have gone to a better young man than Patrick French.”This year's other Graham Downes Scholarship recipient, Chuck Wallace (pictured left), endured multiple moves across states as a child, but his passion and love for the game of rugby was the one thing that remained constant. Chuck fell in love with rugby at the age of 10 years old and earned a starting spot on a team of 14 year olds. Chuck says the significant age gap made him feel out of place, yet furthered his passion for the game.
“The difference in age compelled me to stand out for my performance and skill. This passion helped me further my abilities and friendships with my coaches and teammates.”
In his junior year of high school, he helped his team win several titles, including League Division Champions, Southern California League Champions, Fullerton Champions, and the continued streak of retaining the Titan Shield. The Titan Shield is based on New Zealand's Ranfurly Shield and is awarded to the best team in Southern California and they must defend it to retain it. Chuck’s ultimate goal is to play for the U.S.A. Eagles.
Off the pitch Chuck has maintained a 3.8 GPA while playing rugby for Fallbrook and serving as an active member of Peer Buddies, a club dedicated to teaching and interacting with kids with autism. He was recognized for his service and given an award for his involvement with kids with autism. Upon graduating from Oasis High School, Chuck will attend Mira Costa College.
Steve Hernandez, Fallbrook Youth Rugby board member and coach, said that Chuck’s ability to lead by example is an attribute to his continued success. Hernandez has coached and interacted with Chuck throughout the past seven years and has seen him mature into the promising young rugby player he is today. “One of Chuck's greatest attributes is his willingness to give back time and effort to his team and club. Chuck leads by example both on and off the field. He is prepared physically and mentally for each practice and game. Chuck's love for rugby is immediately conveyed by his skill and knowledge on the field and his tireless efforts to help his club off the field. We are all excited and proud of the opportunity Chuck will have in South Africa as a Graham Downes Scholarship Recipient.”
Chuck is eager to develop new techniques and insight to the game and creating lasting friendships with new teammates and coaches while in South Africa.
"The U.S. Foundation is pleased to have Patrick and Chuck represent us in South Africa as this year's Graham Downes Scholarship recipients," said USRF Executive Director Brian Vizard. "We know they'll represent the Rugby Foundation, the Graham Downes Scholarship Committee and American rugby with pride and distinction. Hopefully they'll learn a great deal on the rugby field and come back better players, but have a great time off the field and learn things about South African culture."
The Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship Fund was created to honor the late Natal, OMBAC and U.S. Eagle prop. The Fund is designed to provide annual scholarships to promising young rugby players with the opportunity to expand their rugby knowledge by participating in the courses at the Sharks Academy.
You can help keep Graham's legacy alive and continue to provide this great opportunity to promising U.S. players by contributing to the Graham Downes Rugby Scholarship Fund.