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Success Stories & Player Profiles

The AASE scheme has been hugely successful in rugby. Out of the initial 83 scholars, 12 have so far achieved international honours, 34 have been offered professional rugby contracts, 45 have progressed into Higher Education and four have moved into employment.

Dave Ewers (Exeter/Ivybridge)

Dave Ewers

Photo: RFU Archive

Dave Ewers attended the AASE programme run by Ivybridge Community College in 2009 and 2010. Dave was a member of the Ivybridge squad 1st XV which contended the AASE final of 2009 & 2010 and won the North of England 7s Tournament the same year. Ivybridge act as an Academy base for the Exeter Chiefs.

Dave travelled with Ivybridge to Japan in 2009 to attend the Sanix World Youth Tournament, in which he starred. Dave left school with 3 Distinctions in the National Diploma course.

Dave signed full time professional with the newly promoted Premiership side Exeter Chiefs in 2010 when leaving Ivybridge. In his first year of professional sport Dave played in all of Exeter Chiefs ‘A’ league games and has represented the first team squad in Amlin and European games. Dave has also come off the bench in the Premiership. These selections being a fantastic achievement for the dynamic Number 8 forward in his first year out of school.

Dave contributes a huge amount of his success to the RFU AASE programme: “The AASE programme at Ivybridge Community College is run extremely professionally and was the ideal grounding and learning curve to being a full time player.

"It helped me in all the usual ways of physical and tactical preparation, but it also helped me in my approach when entering my time with the ‘big boys’. I found I was already up to speed in my personal preparation and how to manage my time, maintain diaries and nutrition etc. I was used to analysing my games on the lap top and was right up there with my gym techniques and ready for the demands of life as a professional.

Obviously being part of a Premiership squad the step up is huge but being part of the programme sure helped in climbing that step. I felt comfortable as I entered the adult rugby world and a lot of that confidence was due to the programme and the staff at Ivybridge who were always supportive.

In a nutshell the AASE programme has allowed me to realise one of my early goals and dreams of being a premiership player and I will carry the lessons learned forward to hopefully a long and successful career in rugby. If anything does come along to prevent that from happening I will have my qualifications to fall back on and as we were always told at Ivybridge ‘Education is Paramount’ and I am currently looking at working towards study as an accountant, so the lessons are still being utilised”.

Curtis Wilson (Leeds/Prince Henry's)

Curtis Wilson

Photo: RFU Archive

Curtis joined the AASE program after being spotted by Diccon Edwards, the then Leeds Academy manager, and current Head Coach. He had played rugby for Sheffield U16’s at Abbeydale and attended an inner city school in Sheffield.

He had played no representative rugby during his rugby career to date but due to his pace and athletism and focus on individual development, the AASE programme offered Curtis the best possible opportunity to combine further studies, undertaking the BTEC National Certificate in Sport, Performance and Excellence, alongside the NVQ at Prince Henry’s Grammar School.

He left Year 11 at his previous school with only 3 GCSE’s not including Maths and English. Curtis found the new standards at Danny Care’s old school challenging, compared to his previous regime. However the strict standards started to pay off as he learnt about time management, being able to prioritise course work deadlines at the right time, working and communicating with other people and to juggle his increasing rugby demands (with training at school, Otley RFC and Leeds A team).

Curtis’ rugby accelerated as fast as he does with the ball in hand, during his two years at Prince Henry’s Grammar School. He played for the North of England U18’s, Otley RFC 1st XV and has progressed into the England U19 squad in preparation for the following season with the U20’s (hopefully). He also succeeded in the classroom as he passed his ALAN (Adult Literacy and Adult Numeracy) tests and achieved a grade in his Btec which has allowed him to study Sports Performance at Leeds Metropolitan University. 

Curtis explained about his time: “Being part of a traditional, former grammar school was tough at the start, but the staff stuck with me and I’m leaving with a whole new life ahead of me. All my goals achieved, going to Uni, an academy contract, and playing a really high standard of rugby.

"Getting through to the Rosslyn Park semi finals and beating Sedburgh 37-0 was an unforgettable experience last year. It was highly unlikely I was going to achieve everything I’ve done in the last two years without the AASE scheme and the staff at Prince Henry’s.”

“The attention to detail of the course was also brilliant as every aspect of the game and lifestyle was looked at. The NVQ and the Btec course worked really well together which meant we looked at how to improve on the field for the next game but off it as well. This would include nutritional, lifestyle, media and recovery advice. The intensity of the apprenticeship means that you also have to have a lot of self-discipline and organisation”.

“I also think that the quality of coaching was amazing. I remember joining and being taught “all the basics, but to a professional standard” and now after two years I have seen everyone on the course improve a great deal. The fitness staff work with the apprentices most days in the gym and outside on the pitch and also had our own physiotherapist support available twice a week that helped keep us in the best condition possible.”

Richard Wareham, Director of Rugby at Prince Henry’s Grammar School said “I think Curtis is a fantastic example of how the AASE scheme at Prince Henry’s can accelerate a young person’s rugby career and life opportunities.

"The key is the integrated rugby  and academic timetable that has enabled him to rest, recover and complete his work in the evenings, and not having to fit in more rugby sessions such as weights or skill sessions. We integrate them into the school’s 6th form and with a lot of hard work from both sides, still achieve success on and off the pitch.”

Ryan Mills (Gloucester/Hartpury)

Ryan Mills

Photo: Getty Images

After working his way through the South West divisional ranks and representing England at U16 level in 2008, Ryan joined the AASE programme at Hartpury College, operated in partnership with Gloucester Rugby.

Two years later, Ryan had compiled a remarkable list of achievements – he had been selected for England U18s and played an integral part in their Six Nations Grand Slam success of 2010, lifted the British Colleges Elite League trophy in his first year at Hartpury and captained the college to glory in the inaugural edition of the RFU AASE League the following season, and was awarded a full-time academy contract by Gloucester.  

Despite all these commitments to rugby, Ryan was still dedicated to his academic studies, and he gained a BTEC National Diploma in Sport (Performance and Excellence in Rugby) as well as the NVQ provided by the AASE scheme.

Since leaving Hartpury, Ryan’s success story has continued – he was included in the England U20 squad for the 2011 Six Nations and scored in the 46-15 victory over Ireland that clinched the Grand Slam, and his Aviva Premiership debut for Gloucester at Saracens swiftly followed. He recently returned from the IRB Junior World Championship in Italy where he helped his country to a commendable runners-up spot, grabbing a crucial try in the 39-18 win against Scotland in the pool stage.

Ryan is quick to acknowledge the role that the AASE programme played in his success.

“The AASE programme definitely helped to speed up my development,” he commented. “The skills and conditioning sessions really benefitted my game. The coaches were excellent and every session was performed at high intensity, which made sure all of us received maximum benefit from them.

“The AASE League was a great environment to develop in as well. It was such a professional setup and every game was so intense, so to win it with Hartpury as captain was an amazing experience. I felt like those matches and training sessions gave me an edge, and at international level in particular that is so important.

“It wasn’t just the training that helped me either. I learnt so much about other vital aspects of being a professional sportsman, such as lifestyle management, correct nutrition and hydration, how to recover from training and matches properly and all kinds of things that I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t participated in the AASE programme.

“My dream is to have a career as professional rugby player, and taking part in the AASE scheme has definitely laid good foundations to help me do that.”

Hartpury’s AASE Programme Manager Barry Maddocks echoed Ryan’s sentiments.

“I think the AASE programme undoubtedly helped Ryan achieve his goal of winning a professional contract,” he said. "The skills and knowledge that he picked up from the scheme, both in rugby terms and lifestyle management, will be invaluable to him as he tries to make a career as a professional athlete.

“The BTEC Diploma and NVQ that he gained will also help him into university should he choose to go down that route, so the benefits of the programme are endless.”