- St Joseph’s quartet in national squad to face Ireland
- London & SE U18s favour open style and accountability
A new approach to selection helped London & South East Under 18s win both their divisional festival matches in fine style last weekend (February 17-19), following which six players have been selected for the England U18 Clubs and Schools squad to face Ireland Clubs U18 in April.
Four Eastern Counties players from St Joseph’s College in Ipswich – flankers Gabriel Carroll (Sudbury RFC) and Shaquille Meyers (Diss RFC), wing Chris Lord (Bury St Edmunds RFC) and fly half Joe Tarrant (Colchester RFC) – are joined in the national squad of 22 by centre Harry Sloan (Skinners’ School, Harlequins and Kent) and scrum half Jordan Burns (Epsom College, Cobham RFC and Surrey).
Sloan, a member of Harlequins’ elite player development group, also played in last year’s match away to Ireland when England drew 23-23 in Dublin.
At the U18 divisional festival played at Broadstreet RFC near Coventry, London & South East defeated the Midlands 34-28 last Friday (Feb 17) with tries by left wing Chris Levesley (Highlands College, Jersey RFC and Hampshire), Carroll, Burns, Lord, back row Seb Nagle-Taylor (Eastbourne College and Sussex) and lock Luke Paynter (Twyford School, London Wasps AASE, Ealing Trailfinders and Middlesex). Tarrant and replacement fly half Harry Thorogood (Watford GS, Harrow and Hertfordshire) kicked a conversion each.
On Sunday (Feb 19) the London & South East side trounced the South West 36-12, with two tries each by Lord and Meyers, and one apiece for Carroll and full back James Clements (RGS Guildford, Guildford RFC and Surrey). Tarrant kicked three conversions.
London & South East changed the way they chose their divisional squad this season, under the new trio of selectors: chairman of selectors Richard Siggs, head coach Chris Roberts (King’s, Canterbury) and assistant coach Oliver Torri (RGS Guildford).
Mike Glogg MBE, chairman of the London & South East 18 Group, explained: “Traditionally the approach was to grade players through their county matches.
“This year, inspired by a model I have been involved with and that is being worked on by the RFU’s player development department, we gathered a group of eight qualified coaches plus myself, Chris Roberts and Oliver Torri, to attend the matches and training, and make detailed player assessments.
“There were 205 players taking part in London division inter-county matches but we asked their respective coaches who they thought we should be looking at, which came to 80 or so.
“We noted every tackle, every kick, every outcome from contact and many other details into a written report. To some extent it is still objective but, we feel, it is reliable and fair, transparent and accountable.”
Having considered 45 players at a final trial, and after the abandonment of a preparatory match due to the cold weather, Glogg was thrilled with the performance of the London & South East team at the Broadstreet festival.
“The open rugby was at times superb,” said Glogg. “The coaches were asked to offer an open approach giving players freedom to move the ball around and take risks.
“Their first run-out together was against the Midlands where they did well, and it was no surprise they were even more impressive in the second game against the South West.
“The key thing was the players’ willingness and ability to offload, and their pace.
“The side was very well captained in both matches by Gabriel Carroll at openside flanker in his second year at the U18 festival.”
The England U18 Clubs and Schools squad will play warm-up matches against Northampton Saints Academy at Surrey Sports Park on March 11 and Leicester Tigers Academy at Oval Park in Wigston on April 8.
Preparations will then intensify for the international against Ireland Under 18 Clubs at Old Merchant Taylors RFC in Northwood, Middlesex, on April 14.