Home   Sport   Article

Subscribe Now

Billy Walker becomes cornerstone of fearsome Cambridge pack in National League One

Billy Walker in action for Cambridge. Picture: Chris Fell (54745755)
Billy Walker in action for Cambridge. Picture: Chris Fell (54745755)

It would not be an understatement to put Cambridge’s success so far this season in National League One down to their power play.

A club renowned in recent years for free-flowing rugby, it is the forwards that have taken on the mantle this year and maybe not quite so much run with it but battered down the door.

The demolition work of the driving maul has earned multiple tries, but it is not just the work at the line-out that has stood out, it is their scrummaging, for which Billy Walker is a cornerstone.

The 25-year-old tight-head prop has been the anchor of the front row in his first full campaign with the club, having initially joined in the first summer of the pandemic.

“My brother-in-law, Jack Culverhouse, played at Cambridge before, and I was at Nottingham for a while and had a baby on the way,” explains Walker.

“I just wanted to play a good standard of rugby, but play part-time and work a job. My family run a recycling yard called Essex Waste, so I work for them and play rugby at the same time, so it’s the best of both worlds really.

“I spoke to Jack, and he said it was a good club.”

National League One was not an unknown quantity to Walker, but since his teenage years, his ‘first claim’ club had been in the upper echelons of the pyramid.

He first joined Saracens at the age of 14, in the junior academy, and progressed to get a professional deal in the senior academy aged 18. A first-team contract was earned three years later.

“It’s a brilliant club, Saracens,” said Walker.

“As a youngster, with all these internationals ahead of you, you’re learning off them every day so it was a good club to be around.”

It is widely accepted that props get better as they get older, mastering the so-called dark arts of the scrum, and getting as much experience as possible is a prerequisite.

Walker went out on loan to Old Albanian, Bishop’s Stortford, Bedford Blues and Ampthill.

“They are brilliant for youngsters to go out and play in a good league like the Championship,” he says.

“You learn because you have so many ex-Premiership players, especially as a prop.

“There are so many ex-Premiership props playing in the Championship you are learning all the time as a youngster, and playing is the only way you get better so it was good to go out on loan to play.

Billy Walker in action for Cambridge. Picture: Chris Fell (54745757)
Billy Walker in action for Cambridge. Picture: Chris Fell (54745757)

“It’s tough, the Championship, it’s very physical. There are lots of people who have played in the Premiership before, big teams and it’s obviously a professional league so people are training and playing all the time.

“It’s a tough league. You get more experience, so the more you play the better you become.

“You know what to do in different situations. If you’re only playing now and again then you don’t ever learn how to better yourself in those situations when they come along again.”

Walker was not just learning with a Premiership club and in the Championship though.

He had represented England throughout the age groups – under-16s, under-18s and under-20s – and it was in the oldest of those categories that he earned the most success.

As part of the England under-20s, he won the World Championship on home turf in 2016.

“It was good to represent your country, it was a proud moment of not even your rugby career but your life to represent your country,” says Walker.

“It was a brilliant feeling winning the World Cup. You are with that group of lads for a solid two months, and you get to know them really well.

“You are in the camp the whole time, so to come away with winning it was brilliant.

“It helps your game for one because you’re playing with different players you’ve never played with before. For example, the lads who were at Sarries would be coached a different way to other lads, say at Harlequins at the time.

“They would be playing different to the way I would play, so you learn how to play different and then different nationalities obviously play different styles of rugby so you have to learn how to play tactically against the different teams.

“It was a very proud moment, not just for me but my family.”

Billy Walker in action for Cambridge against Cinderford. Picture: Chris Fell (54458109)
Billy Walker in action for Cambridge against Cinderford. Picture: Chris Fell (54458109)

After an association that spanned nine years with Saracens, Walker left Allianz Park in 2019 to move to Nottingham on a full-time basis.

He had already spent a season on loan there, and it was a desire for more game time that fuelled the move.

But the Covid pandemic struck and that made Walker, who is based in Baldock, seek opportunities closer to home to strike the right rugby/work balance which in turn led him to Cambridge.

“I wanted to come and see what it was like, and I’m very glad I did to be honest,” he explains.

“It’s a great club. I feel like they’ve brought me in, they’ve looked after my wife, looked after my baby, all the boys are good lads, all the wives and girlfriends are nice.

“You feel like you’re one family club, you don’t feel like an outsider if you haven’t been there for ages – I feel like I’ve been there for 20 years.”

Cambridge are currently fifth in the table, just seven behind second-placed Caldy and 17 off leaders Rosslyn Park.

It is the best season that they have enjoyed in National League One since 2009, but Walker believes there is much more to come.

“I think there is massive potential,” he says. “I think if we keep going the way we’re going and try to get better each week, then we’ve got a chance of pushing top four definitely, maybe top two.

“The exciting thing is that we’re getting better each week and learning.

“We’re seeing the changes that we talk about when we lose, now we’re doing them and winning the games. There is maturity coming into us.”

He adds: “Obviously, we’re doing well but you can’t be satisfied with just doing well, you want to be excellent all the time.”

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More