THOMAS Amass is making sure that his blossoming rugby career shows how he is rising high above the bullying that blighted his early life.

The Halstead Templars Rugby Club player, who is now 19, suffered a miserable time at the hands of bullies when he was growing up, but a call-up to the prestigious ranks of the Eastern Counties representative side last weekend is proving that he is defying any doubters to follow his dreams.

Amass is the youngest ever player to feature in the colours of his home-town club and his form in the second row and also on the wing for the Templars has also been catching the eye further afield.

It was the same form that carried him through a testing series of trials and into the Eastern Counties Under-20s representative side to make his debut in the team's opening game in this season's Jason Leonard Shield Championship against Kent on Sunday.

The Eastern Counties side is taken from the cream of young players either living in or playing in teams affiliated to Suffolk - as are the Templars - Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and Amass is delighted to be proving wrong those who may have doubted him or made his life a misery while he was growing up.

Amass, who playing in the second row against Kent, said: "It's so nice to get the recognition now with the Eastern Counties team, especially as I was bullied while I was growing up.

"I was told that I wouldn't do anything and that I wasn't good enough and that negativity has spurred me on to show people that I can.

"It's made me want it even more, to make a name for myself and to just push myself harder.

"I don't want them to win.

"My dream is to play rugby professionally and I've had people say to me that that's just what it is - a dream.

"But the Eastern Counties is such a good level and we had England Counties Under-20 scouts there watching us and people were saying that there were Premiership scouts looking as well.

"I feel as though I'm living my dream.

"One day I'd love to get that professional contract and show everyone that no matter what you go through, you don't listen to the people who say you can't do it."

As well as playing in the game against Kent, who dominated against their Eastern Counties counterparts, in the Jason Leonard Shield opener, Amass also featured for the representative side in a warm-up game against Cambridge University's under-20s and he is now hoping to get the call for further honours.

Eastern Counties under-20s head coach Ben Penfold said: “We’ve got some really good gems within the squad.

"From my point of view, it is about allowing them to use these three games in the Jason Leonard Shield Championship to give them the best platform for London and South East selection and hopefully on to England Counties selection.”

The next outing for the representative side is against Hertfordshire at Shelford on February 24, but for now, Amass' concerns switch back to Templars duties as the Halstead side embark on the second phase of their Eastern Counties League campaign with a game at Norwich Lions seconds on Saturday.