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New look England Students primed for Portugal test

11 January 2010

  • Flanker Burgess to captain students’ team this season
  • Fixtures against Portugal, Irish Colleges and France Universities
Ben Maidment of England Students runs with the ball

Photo: Getty Images

England Students have named their 26-man elite squad for three matches this season, beginning with a trip to Lisbon to face the Portugal national side on Saturday January 30.

Head coach Paul Westgate and assistant James Farndon have chosen flanker Phil Burgess of Loughborough as captain of a new-look squad featuring 20 players new to this level. 

“Phil missed the initial cut last year but he came in halfway through our programme of four wins out of four and embodied everything we were looking for,” said Westgate, who together with Farndon is in his second season in charge.

“We are confident Phil will be setting the standard in a squad which starts with almost a clean slate compared with last year when there were plenty of players with a couple of years’ experience behind them.”

England Students represent thousands of players actively involved in rugby at universities and colleges around the country. The team has won eight of its last nine fixtures and Westgate is excited at the prospect of the Lisbon date against a Portugal side currently placed 21st in the official International Rugby Board world rankings.

They will also take on Irish Colleges at Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park ground on February 26 and France Universities in Riom on March 19.

“We believe we can compete at this level and one of our core principles is to back ourselves and enjoy the experience,” said Westgate. “If we can put out a good performance against Portugal, who went to the 2007 Rugby World Cup, that will say a lot about the squad and the players.

“We’re massively excited about the challenges and how we respond to those challenges. These are still young players who are still developing and we want to equip them with some sort of ownership and responsibility to take with them to a higher level of rugby.

“It can be daunting for the coaches because these guys are intelligent players who are used to making their own decisions. Our job is to get all that together and produce rugby which we hope everyone involved with England Rugby would be proud of.”

The players with previous experience include Burgess - who appeared against the Netherlands and Combined Services Under 23 last season and has played for Gloucester Rugby’s A team - Oxford wing Sean Morris, Bristol hooker Adam Bellamy, Cambridge No.8 Ben Maidment and Loughborough scrum half Will Chudleigh.

Tom Hockedy also returns to the squad after missing last year’s wins over Irish Colleges , France Universities, the Netherlands and Combined Services U23 through injury. “We’ll be looking for Tom to provide valuable leadership in the backline,” Westgate said of the Exeter wing, a try-scorer for England Students against Irish Colleges and Combined Services U23 in 2008.

The squad will have a final training session at Uppingham School on Sunday January 24, and Keith Green, England Students team manager, said: “We were really impressed by the quality of player available to us which I think reflects well on our regional selection teams and the standard of student rugby.”

England Students Elite Squad 2010

Forwards
Matt Berry (Loughborough)
Tim Brockett (UWIC)
Oliver Mines (Durham)
Derek Salisbury (Edge Hill)
Adam Bellamy (Bristol)
George Thomas (Loughborough)
Patrick Crossley (Cambridge)
Jon Aston (Loughborough)
Andrew Archibald (Northumbria)
Royce Cadman (Hartpury)
Will Warden (Loughborough)
Mark Wilson (Northumbria)
Phil Burgess (Loughborough, captain)
Alex Waddingham (Durham)
Ben Maidment (Cambridge)

Backs
Will Chudleigh (Loughborough)
Greg Nicholls (Bristol)
Mike Ward (Durham)
Paul Roberts (Bath)
Tom Hockedy (Exeter)
Tom Mitchell (Bristol)
Matt Humphries (UWE)
Lewie Messer (UWIC)
Sean Morris (Oxford)
John Bordiss (Exeter)
James Crozier (Durham)

England Students Fixtures 2010

January 30: England Students v Portugal (Estádio Universitário, Lisbon, 3pm)
February 26: England Students v Irish Colleges (Kingston Park Stadium, Newcastle, 7.30pm)
March 19: England Students v France Universities (Riom, 7pm)