Oswestry cricketer Joe Clarke has spoken of his “embarrassment and shame” over his past involvement in a vulgar Whatsapp group with convicted rapist Alex Hepburn.

In 2017, Clarke used the messaging app to engage in discussions of a degrading game of sexual conquests alongside then Worcestershire team-mates Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Hepburn.

The latter was sentenced to five years in jail after raping a woman who had earlier engaged in consensual sex with Clarke.

England Lions v South Africa – Tour Match – Day One – New Road Joe Clarke represented England Lions (Mike Egerton/PA)

Clarke was not accused of any wrongdoing on the night in question, but recent talk of an England call-up has met with fierce criticism from those who feel his past sexist actions, and scarce public contrition, make him an unsuitable candidate for the national side.

Now, in a new interview with the Daily Telegraph, the 25-year-old has confronted his past behaviour.

“I have done a lot of reflecting. It is a feeling of embarrassment really. Regretful for being part of it,” he said.

“It is embarrassment and shame that I was involved in what was a terrible thing. It upsets me seeing it now so I completely understand why people get upset looking at it. It was completely wrong.

“It is not something I have forgotten about at all. Although I’ve not talked about it publicly I have had a lot of conversations in private with the club here and my family, with women that I am friends with. I’m happy I have the chance now and say how sorry I am for the involvement in all of it.”

Of the victim, who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, he said: “I feel like I let her down. She was ultimately in my company and relied on me for her safety and I did not provide that. I feel like I let her down and I hope that she has found happiness that she deserves now and has managed to move on.”

Generally considered one of the most talented uncapped players on the county circuit, Clarke appeared to move a step closer to England honours when director of men’s cricket Rob Key suggested he would be considered for selection on his watch.

But Clarke, who played for Oswestry cricket club, added: “This is not about playing for England. This is about owning what I did, that I made a mistake and what I did was wrong.”