Well, what an interesting week we have had since the last Weekend Review!
Eddie Jones named his England squad on Wednesday and for us here at Fifteen Rugby it was a delight. Of the seven uncapped players in the squad, five were U20 World Championship winners with England U20 in either 2013 or 2014.
Uncapped Maro Itoje, Sam Hill, Ollie Devoto, Jack Clifford, and Paul Hill join fellow U20 Champions Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, and (when fit) Henry Slade in the squad. George Ford would also be one of those U20 champions were he not deemed so good by then that he was taken out of U20 action to concentrate on senior rugby.
It was such a delight for us here because having covered the U20 side for the last few years, and indeed seen the likes of Itoje and Hill in particular at school level, it is superb to see that young potential being given the chance to blossom at the highest level.
This is the moment that has been on the cusp for England ever since this talented crop of U20s showed what they could do on a world stage. In some ways at this point it is hard not to feel for Stuart Lancaster, he was responsible for the pathway that set many of these players on their way to international honours, and was surely looking forward to integrating them into the senior set up as Jones has.
What makes it so exciting for us though is that more than ever before, this squad really highlights for today’s current crop of schoolboys just how closely within reach running out at Twickenham, or any other great rugby cathedral, is.
Just two or three years ago these youngsters were playing in their school 1st XV shirts, it ought to be inspirational for today’s schoolboys – of all ages. With hard work and perseverance, that bridge from school to international can be short, very short!
The other great piece of inspiration should be Josh Beaumont. Beaumont provides the inspiration from the flip side of the coin. He was not an age-grade international, he was not on the elite pathway, the performance pathway, or whatever other pathway there might be, he simply went to University, performed well, played for England Students, and was picked up by Sale Sharks. Why should that not be you, or your son, or your pupil, who might be missed by the first net but then through hard work, maybe later development, and good performance get caught by the next.
For us that is the real excitement in this squad, the inspiration that it should be providing today’s schools rugby players with. A coaches team talk this weekend must seem a simple one: “Play well, work hard, get noticed, and like Maro Itoje and Paul Hill you could be in the England squad two years after leaving school.” I know I’d have run through a brick wall knowing how close that dream can be.
Of course we can’t all be playing for our country at age 20, but we can all take the message of inspiration on board into other walks of life. Work hard, dream big, and persevere, and you too stand every chance of stunning achievement.
And on that unusually philosophical note, I hope you enjoy this week’s Weekend Review. Hopefully this weekend we will see more rugby go ahead than last after the weather rather played havoc with the fixture list.