- England Under 18 coach heads to Harrow to scout emerging talent
- “The lads are continuing to develop physically, so the future is exciting” – Walton
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A trip to Harrow School on Friday for a tournament featuring seven of the best academies in England and Wales has whetted Peter Walton’s appetite ahead of the coming season.
One week after returning from his role as England Under 18 forwards coach on their tour to South Africa, the former Scotland international took time to visit north west London in order to scout some emerging talent.
With sides from Bath Rugby, Harlequins, London Irish, Northampton Saints, Saracens, Newport-Gwent Dragons and Exeter Chiefs present, the competition took the form of two round-robin groups.
However, given John Fletcher’s new England Under 18 training squad is selected in the near future and the academies are stepping up preparations for their own programmes, Walton admitted that results were secondary to performances.
“This is really exciting,” he said. “It’s not only giving us a chance to have a look at the players coming through, it’s also giving the academies a chance to see the work they’ve put in over the summer.
“It is good preparation – the academies might not see their players before half-term because some lads will be back at their schools in between.
“The tournament here in London and the tournament at Sandbach [on the same day, contested by Sale Sharks, Worcester Warriors, Gloucester Rugby, Bristol Rugby, Leeds Carnegie and Newcastle Falcons] gives us a great chance to look at them.
“We’ve videoed each game just in case we don’t get to see them live, and that’s important for us to be able to give some feedback to the players.
Photo: Photos by Adedapo
“Those who haven’t yet been invited to a camp can put their hands up as well – there’s a camp in October, and we might have a re-think about the squads before then. So it’s a great opportunity for these guys.”
Acknowledging the importance of the Under 18 side as a stepping stone for Under 20 honours – a sturdy springboard to senior involvement as demonstrated by the likes of Matt Kvesic and Joe Launchbury – Walton finished by highlighting the high standard of forward-play across the age-group.
“The door is never closed,” he added. “The lads are continuing to develop physically, so sometimes the future is more important than how good they are now.
“New scrummaging rules coming in are definitely helping some of the props and you can already see some of the second rows have more size about them.
“The back rows are flying around as well and I am excited because there is a lot of talent around. It’s going to be tough to pick two squads for the under 17s and under 18s – a lot of good players won’t get a chance because we have to cut down.
“Of course that is not how it finishes, though. There is under 20s afterwards, which means there is plenty of time for these players to develop.”