- England Under 18 coach outlines importance of touring experience
- “I’m sure there are some future internationals in this squad” – Fletcher
Photo: RFU Archive
England Under 18s head coach John Fletcher has hailed his side’s three-game tour to South Africa as a great success that showcased some of his players’ best rugby while allowing them to immerse themselves in Rainbow Nation’s rich culture.
The group arrived back home at the start of this week, having signed off with a hard-fought 12-8 win over France to complement a last-gasp 17-15 victory over Wales and a 19-14 defeat to South Africa Schoolboys.
But when offering his evaluation of the fortnight-long trip, Fletcher also emphasised the importance of off-field experiences.
“We’ve had a good trip and the players have enjoyed it,” he explained. “Obviously we set some objectives beforehand – one of those was to have a good time in the culture of another country with their people.
“The players have been to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, to Cape Town, to George and we’ve done some work with Desmond Tutu’s AIDS foundation.”
Fletcher was joined in the second week by both Professional Player Development manager Alun Powell and newly-appointed Head of International Player Development Joe Lydon in a bid to ensure continuity throughout the national programme.
With the coming season’s under 16s, 17s and 18s schedules starting as early as this month, that cohesion will prove essential.
On England’s displays across their trio of fixtures in South Africa, Fletcher said: “On the field, the players have done well. In all the games there have been good moments, although we haven’t quite put a performance together over the 70 minutes. What we have done is demonstrate we are a good side who are capable of playing some good rugby.
Photo: RFU Archive
“It is a talented squad – as good as any squad we’ve had. I’m sure lots of them will go on to do really well throughout, from the Under 20s to the Premiership. I am also sure that there will be some internationals in this squad as well.
“Bits of the performances were certainly really good, but not quite for long enough. We’ve left a few tries out there and two defensive errors have cost us, but overall they are in really good shape.
“Now, there are really looking forward to getting back to their academies and schools and kicking on in those environments.”
Two of the party that impressed on an individual level were skipper and no. 8 James Chisholm and Leeds Carnegie hooker Jack Walker – the former being voted players’ player of the trip for some all-action showings from the base of the scrum, with the latter picking up the coaches’ accolade.
“Players’ player is the award that everybody wants to get,” Fletcher added. “James has been outstanding all season and has continued that form with the added pressure of being captain.
“He’s a very talented player – one of two great number eights to come from Harlequins over the past couple of years with Jack Clifford as well, who was excellent for the Under 20s this summer.
“Jack Walker got the coaches award. His performances were equally as good – and a year young, too. He’s a very hard-working, humble kid who wants to go all the way.”