Teenager born without left arm given Rugby World Cup honour
A young lad born without his left hand has been chosen to take the ball on the pitch at this year’s Rugby World Cup Final.
Jacob Pickering will have the prestigious honour at the game, being held in Paris, France, later this month.
The 14-year-old rugby fanatic from Blackburn was born without a part of his home after developing amniotic band syndrome in the womb.
He told Lancashire Live: "It would be amazing to walk out with England. I’d back them all the way to reach the final."
When he was seven Jacob was asked to play in his local Rugby team, since he first set foot on the pitch he has never looked back.
In 2020 he was invited to be a mascot for England at a Six Nations game held at Twickenham where he wore a blue and white prosthetic arm.
This year he has not only starred in the World Cup sponsor Land Rover Defender commercial, there has also been a 7ft statue made in his honour.
Pickering said: "It was shocking, but it’s very good. I wasn’t expecting that. It’s really, really exciting.
"They told my mum on a phone call. I thought, ‘Wow, how did they pick me?’
"I never thought it was going to be this big, but it’s been cool – really cool. When we were driving through France, I was on my phone and I looked up and there was me on the side of a building.
"And I was like, 'Wow, that’s amazing'. It’s been really, really exciting."
His mum, Kathryn Litherland, 42, was told her son would be missing a left forearm when she was 20 weeks pregnant. At the time she had “so many worries”, but her concerns were addressed after speaking to a number of specialists and other families with children living with a similar condition.
Dad, David Pickering, 44, encouraged Jacob to take up as many sports as possible, but he fell in love with rugby at his local football club.
Kathryn said: "He started playing football. He was doing okay, but he was getting to the point where he was saying, ‘I don’t want to go’, and we didn’t want to push him. Jacob’s now coach was at the training session, and he said, ‘Bring him to Blackburn Rugby Club’.
"So we took him down and he absolutely loved it. He started at Blackburn Rugby Club, and I kid you not, he was up and he was dressed and he was ready to go to rugby, and we were like ‘Wow, this is brilliant’.”
Jacob received a £11,000 prosthetic arm by philanthropist Tej Kohli towards the end of 2019, he showed the mechanical limb off walking out the tunnel when he was invited to be a mascot at the aforementioned England game.
After that memorable experience he was asked to appear in a Land Rover Defender ad where he met some of his sporting idols.
Kathryn said: "He’s just been on the most amazing adventure. Initially, he went down to London and they did the photographs to make the 3D 7ft figure of him. Then me and Jacob went to Nice, in France, that was brilliant.
"And they came up to us to do some filming. One of the clips was shot in Southport.
"At the World Cup launch, we were told we’d be walking across the ‘black carpet’. And he met everybody. Kano was there, along with Idris Elba, and Jason Fox.
"And Jacob really, really likes Jason Fox, and he was lovely. So he was chatting to him."
Jacob became a celebrity in his own right, with his face plastered across front pages and billboards, but he stayed level headed.
His mum continued: "Jacob has just had so many compliments from everybody.
"And I think it’s because he’s such a humble little boy. When people have come up to him at school, he’s said, ‘Oh no, it’s not me’.
"There have also been times when I’ve asked him: ‘Do you wish you had both your hands’ and he’s said, ‘No, I don’t’.
"He has also never felt any different and never been made to feel any different. And he's never let anything get in his way.
"He never misses training, he never has done. He goes week in, week out."
She added: "I really hope Jacob being a trailblazer for Landrover Defender, and supporting the Rugby World Cup with a limb difference, will encourage others in similar situations."
[ The Rugby World Cup Final is held on October 28th ]