THE last few years have not been easy for Worcester Warriors’ Joe Batley, from being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a form of cancer) back in 2018 to being released by Bristol this time last year and being without a club but now he is ready to kick-on and fulfil his undoubted potential at Sixways.

Warriors announced that Batley has signed on for a further two years on Tuesday, keeping him in Worcester until the end of the 2022/23 season and given everything that he has been through, he admits he is just glad to be playing rugby.

But going back to March 2018, following a game for Bristol against Ealing in the Championship, the 21-year-old utility forward speaks of a “surreal” time of his life.

“At the time I had just moved to Bristol from Gloucester Academy,” recalled Batley.

“I was 21 and we had just beaten Ealing, one of the biggest games of the season and after it I noticed a lump in my neck so I went to the club doctor and he referred me to the hospital where I had a biopsy, which eventually came back as lymphoma.

“It was tough to take at first, to be sat there with the club doctor knowing I now had to make a phone call to my mum and dad. Normally I phone them up to tell them whether I am playing at the weekend or not so to have to phone them up and tell them I’ve got cancer, that was a really strange and surreal moment.

“Obviously I had time to digest it myself before telling them but it was a big shock for them.

“But then once the chemo and radiotherapy started my health and my fitness started to deteriorate, I lost my hair, got really fatigued and was sick a lot. The first lot of chemo wiped me out, I was throwing up non-stop which wasn’t nice.

“Once the chemo stopped I then had to be tested again just to see whether the chemo had worked, which luckily it had and then I had a month of radiotherapy just to wipe it out completely before going into remission, which lasted about six months. I then had a bit of pre-season and back into the fold with Bristol so it was a big hurdle but I feel like now I have come out the other side.”

Batley returned to play a few games for Bristol in the Premiership before a loan spell to Leicester Tigers last season. But in 2020 both clubs decided against taking him on, leaving him without a club.

“There was a massive uncertainty there, so if I look back then to a year on, Worcester showed a lot of faith in me,” he said.

“Me and JT (Jonathan Thomas) have a good connection and the fact he has seen something in me as part of the future of this club, means a lot to me.”