In case you have been away on Mars for the past fortnight, you will know that the 2015 Rugby World Cup starts this evening.
Not only is the World Cup a great chance for the nation to embrace rugby, for the sport we all love to gain more recognition across the nation, giving new university students something to bond over besides the fact that there are no parents or teachers telling them what to do, it is a chance for schools and school players to be inspired.
Before a ball has even been touched, that inspiration has already been seen. With a number of schools being used as training venues for Rugby World Cup, the inspiration has been clear, with each of those schools, such as Trinity (France) and Haileybury (Argentina & USA), enjoying a tremendous start to the season.
Seeing these players up close, watching them train, and realising that they are just a couple of years older than you is inspirational, it makes you realise just how close you as schoolboy players are to that level. Georgiaâ€™s scrum half is just 18, George North is the World Cupâ€™s youngest ever try scorer, he was 19 â€“ international rugby is within touching distance for so many.
Within the England side, that can be seen in the number of players who were part of that 2013 U20 Junior World Championship winning side that are in the squad. It could also be seen in having Maro Itoje, an U20 winner (and captain) in 2014, as part of the early training squad.
I will be at the England v Fiji opener this evening, and will be keenly following Anthony Watson, who was a star man in that 2013 JWC triumph. Throughout the tournament I will be giving my thoughts on those England JWC winners, and those former U20 stars from other nations such as South Africaâ€™s Handre Pollard, as we seek to highlight that path from the schoolboy playing fields to World Cup glory, and just how short that path can be.
Iâ€™ll also be looking at George Ford, not part of that 2013 success, but only because he was already so good that it seemed unnecessary to have him play at that level, instead giving Henry Slade, another winner in the World Cup squad, the chance to play.
In Slade, Watson, and Jack Nowell, England have three JWC winners, and plenty of others such as Luke Cowan-Dickie and Maro Itoje on the fringes. That number is only going to increase as those successful sides begin to mature.
Those young players should provide a great inspiration, especially for those school players who are on Englandâ€™s â€˜performance pathwayâ€™. For those who are not though, there is plenty of inspiration too. Look at a man like Ben Morgan, he was never part of any â€˜pathwayâ€™, he just started taking his rugby very seriously one day and people sat up and took notice. Likewise Nick Easter, who is just an injury away from linking up with the squad again.
Schoolboy players are the very people that this World Cup should be the most special to, who should feel the most inspiration from it.
Over the next few weeks I shall try to convey that message and bring you closer to those players closest to you. Starting tonight against Fiji.
It should be a great few weeks, and a good evening tonight!
By Angus Savage