The Aviva Premiership Rugby 7s Series is a sizzling summer spectacle and this year’s Pool C showing at Franklinâ€™s Gardens was no different. With the famous ‘Friday night lights’ making a killer come back, the crowd were super charged throughout the evening, as both the hungry Harlequins and nifty Northampton Saints secured their place in the finals.
Friday night’s performance served in cementing my inkling that the Premiership Rugby 7s Series is the perfect springboard for future stars, as it has consistently nurtured some remarkable players over the years.
One prime example is Harlequins hooker, Dave Ward. What a fantastic year he’s had. He captained his 7s side back in 2013 and subsequently went on to showcase a stunning season at the Stoop, catching the eye of Stuart Lancaster and earning himself an England call-up … and he’s not the only one – Charlie Walker, Jamie Elliot, Tom Collins and Tom Stephenson – are just a few more to mention who’ve added their own brand of sparkle to the Aviva Premiership.
But I want to take this opportunity to focus on Scotland U20 and Northampton Saints Academy player, Rory Hutchinson.
On hearing Rory had been selected to start, making his debut at Franklinâ€™s Gardens on Friday night, I remembered back to his days at Great Shelford Rugby Club, a club that I too used to play for; one with such heart and sense of community, so I was always inclined to watch the men’s game on a Saturday.
The first time I saw Rory play for Shelford, I remember asking a mutual friend, â€œWho’s playing fly-half, he’s seriously good?â€… â€œThat would be Mr Hutchinson!â€ Was the response I received, and Rory Hutchinson is a name that’s stuck.
I had the privilege of talking to Rory after the Northampton Saints stormed to a 31-14 victory over the Wasps on Friday night. We chatted about what this experience means to him and what he feels, running out to a crowd of 11,027 at Franklins Gardens;
â€œIt’s a massive honour to be able to play for Northampton.â€
â€œTo come out here and play with the people that you train with, it’s just a great environment.â€
It’s clear on the pitch that his relationship with England U18 international, and former Rugby School captain, Harry Mallinder is solid. Those essential foundations which are important in any team, especially in the last ten minutes of a game when you’re blowing and trying to spur each other on;
â€œI guess Harry and I are very direct … there’s a natural connection together, we seem to play well, we communicate very well … it’s great to learn from himâ€
I remember one Sunday in particular, I was walking to play on the top pitch and Rory was there. Baring in mind he’d had a game the day before – but he was still intent on practicing his kicking. His dedication to the game and ability is unquestionable.
He’s mature and grounded, and at 18, even modest with it!
When I asked him, â€œCan we expect more to come from you?â€ His reply was humbling;
â€œWe’ll have to see but I’ll just keep my head down, keep trying hard and see what happens.â€
Looking at Rory’s journey and how he’s developed and grown should enable other potential stars of the future – playing at school, club or academy level – to set personal targets, and become recognised.
Roryâ€™s journey proves what a perfect platform the Aviva Premiership 7s series is.
Well done Rory, good luck for the future and keep up the hard work!
By Rhiannon Chandler-Day
To see more from Rhiannon, please check out her rugby blog at: rhiannonsrugbyunionblog.blogspot.co.uk
The Premiership 7s Finals take place on Friday 8th August at the Twickenham Stoop