As the son of an artist who retains a strong interest in drawing, printing and photography, it is no surprise to find out that new England fly-half Orlando Bailey has a keen eye for detail.
‘Let’s take the pictures in the home changing room,’ suggests Bailey, who is in Eddie Jones’ Six Nations squad, as he welcomes Sportsmail to Bath’s ground, the Rec. ‘The lighting might be a bit dark for the camera though.’
Softly spoken, erudite and with several interests outside of rugby which include studying for a degree in International Development with Economics, Bailey is far from your typical sportsman. Not that it has stopped him reaching international level aged just 20.
Bath youngster Orlando Bailey has been called up to England’s Six Nations squad next month
‘My older siblings Natasha, Caspar and Gabriella all did art at A Level and I did too. I did lots of art growing up,’ Bailey says of his Dorset childhood. ‘At home we have a nice creative space which is a good setting for us to do art. The creative side has always been at the heart of our house. I still like to draw and when I go home to Dorset, I also do some printing.
‘My dad Julian is a painter — he does mainly oils, but on a big scale. He used to do landscapes and paintings of the coast. Now he’s slightly more figurative. He’s moving with the times but his work is great. It’s really colourful and exciting.
‘My mum Sophie is a ceramicist and played lacrosse for Britain so there is a sporting element to our family but I enjoy cooking and drawing because it’s important to take your head away from rugby.
‘I’m in my second year at Bath University.
Bailey, 20, has a number of interests outside of rugby, including his degree in Economics
He also has a strong passion for art, which is shared by his mother, father and three siblings
But the Bath youngster must now turn his attention to England’s Six Nations campaign
‘International Development is really interesting. It’s about critiquing ways the western world looks to try and develop other areas. It gets you to think. The balance can be hard. If I finish a long day at training, I know I have to do two or three hours of university work at night.
‘Sometimes I wonder why I am doing it but I always get an hour or two done on hard rugby days and on my days off, I really enjoy going to the library. It’s nice to feel like a student at times.’
Bailey’s university work has taken a back seat this week after he joined up with Jones’ senior England squad in Brighton for the start of the Six Nations.
Named after his great grand-father, Bailey’s elevation to Test level has been swift. Last summer, he helped England to a junior Six Nations clean sweep and this season he has impressed despite featuring in a Bath side which has won just once all term.
His creative spark and ability to play flat to the gain line has caught the eye of Jones, who believes Bailey can play in multiple back-line positions.
England boss Eddie Jones believe he is capable of playing in a number of back-line positions
The Dorset man’s creative spark and ability to play flat to the gain line has caught Jones’ eye
As comfortable with a canvas in his hand as he is with a ball, Bailey’s creativity stands out whether he is on the field or not. Remarkably, he is still a member of Bath’s senior academy. ‘I try to trust my instincts as much as possible and not pre-plan too much,’ says Bailey, known as ‘Landy’ to his friends and team-mates. ‘There is a lot of room in rugby for structure but when there is a chance to break out from that and play what’s in front of you, I try to express myself. I think that’s important.
‘Having my university work and other hobbies outside of rugby means that when I come to play, I try to approach it really fresh and take every situation on its merits. It’s not about approaching my rugby carefree because I’m meticulous with my planning but it’s important not to get too bogged down on some things.
‘None of the detail from my rugby is ever lost, it’s just I have moments in the day where I can switch off. Some players enjoy PlayStation and academic work isn’t for everyone. But I remember a few years ago Maro Itoje was pinned up as someone who was doing a degree and it made me realise it must be possible.’
On the day Jones confirmed Bailey’s place in his Six Nations squad, England released a video of him tearing up Twickenham for Thomas Hardye School aged 15. Bailey ran the show as Challoner’s Grammar School were hammered 62-7 in the 2017 Under 15 NatWest Vase final.
Bailey was speaking with Sportsmail’s Alex Bywater ahead of his Six Nations venture
As he came through the ranks, first at Thomas Hardye, then Beechen Cliff School and at Dorchester Rugby Club, a young Bailey would sometimes feel sorry for the opposition upon whom he often inflicted misery. ‘It got to a point where it was quite demoralising. I did feel for them,’ says Bailey, who also represented Dorset in cricket, of his first outing at Twickenham.
‘There are four of us — me, Frankie Reid, Ethan Staddon and John Stewart — who have all come from the same school and club in Dorchester to Bath. We live together in Bath and they do university too. We help motivate each other. This has all come very quickly for me. It’s been surreal.’
It is just 18 months since Bailey left Beechen Cliff so to be in the England squad is astonishing. Marcus Smith is likely to start the Six Nations opener with Scotland at fly-half with Bailey in an apprenticeship role but the injury to Owen Farrell could yet hand him an opportunity given Bailey can cover both full back and centre from the bench.
‘Danny Cipriani was always an idol of mine when I was growing up,’ he says. ‘I admire the way he plays and the way he takes the ball to the line. His ball-playing skills are world class and he’s been really great with me at Bath. He’s taken me under his wing. We kick together and I ask him questions to try and learn as much as possible each day.
‘The goal for me is to try and play for England in the Six Nations. I’m in the squad now but I want to be competitive and not make up the numbers.
‘Test rugby is a step up with the physicality and speed of ball but it’s something I want to keep pushing towards.’