With the polo season in full swing, find out more about the England captain — from his early Pony Club days to his other sporty family members
1. The 36-year-old seven-goaler has been an England stalwart for 10 years now, representing England in nine Coronation Cup test matches to date — with six wins among them.
2. He has, however, only won the British Open (Gold Cup) once, in 1998, playing for Ellerston aged 18 alongside world number one Adolfo Cambiaso.
3. James played polo for the North Cotswold branch of the Pony Club as a youngster, often coming up against Luke and Mark Tomlinson as teenagers. “Mark and I are about the same age and we were each other’s nemesis growing up,” recalls James. “We dreamed we would end up playing for England but it seemed doubtful back then.”
4. Unlike many polo professionals, James is not from an equestrian family — he admits his father is downright scared of horses. But sport is certainly in his blood — his brother Tom is a former England rugby player, and now a three-goal polo professional himself, and his sister Lucy played hockey internationally.
5. James spent 15 winters in Australia, after he was picked up by the legendary Ellerston organisation to play for the late Australian tycoon Kerry Packer. He and his family — wife Lauren and children Willow, three, and Max, one — still return frequently to Lauren’s native Australia.
6. He is passionate about polo pony breeding, and the eldest of his home-breds are now five. “I had some nice Ellerston mares who were getting older so after I made a bit of money one season I decided to give it a go. I’ve piggy-backed on the Ellerston lines.”
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7. The Gracida family and former Engand captain Henry Brett are among his polo idols: “I loved to watch Henry play. He was a bit of an enigma off the field, but very talented on it.”
8. He adheres to a life motto of his father’s: “look smart, play smart”. “I make sure I’m always well turned out and in a good mindset to play,” explains James. “My father also used to say ‘look after your equipment and it will look after you’, which I suppose could be applied to lots of things in life.”
James will lead the England side against South Africa at next month’s Polo in the Park, held in Hurlingham Park, London (3-5 June). He’ll also be gunning for his seventh Coronation Cup victory at the HPA’s International Day on 23 July, where England face the Commonwealth