With the Aviva Premiership season kicking off this weekend, along with much of the school season, we thought it was high time to take a look at a few players who recently finished school who might make an impact in the Aviva Premiership this season.
We have picked a fifteen that we think have a real chance of making a major impact on the Aviva Premiership this season, as well as some replacements who also have a strong chance of success at club level this year.
Each season there are always a few young guns, who can forget Harry Mallinder at Northampton Saints last year or Johnny Williams at London Irish, perhaps some of these could be those players this year:
15 Aaron Morris (Harlequins & Biddenham Upper School)
Morris’ move from Saracens to Harlequins was perhaps a bit of a surprise, particularly with Ben Ransom moving to London Irish from Sarries. Morris will be vying strongly to be Mike Brown’s understudy at Harlequins though, and the pacey full back could see a lot of game time, particularly during the international windows.
14 Ollie Thorley (Gloucester & Cheltenham College)
After winning the World Rugby U20 Championships with England in June, Thorley has been promoted from the Academy at Gloucester to the senior squad, and it is little wonder. He made his Gloucester debut at just 17, the youngest Gloucester player in the professional era, and he has impressed at every opportunity since.
13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins & Peter Symonds’ College)
Marchant is perhaps an obvious choice; after all he played a fair few games for Quins last year and has been named in Eddie Jones’ extended EPS this summer. However Marchant is still very young, he was part of England’s U20 World Championship winning squad in June. The chance is there this year for him to become Harlequins’ first choice outside centre, and then he really could think of making an impact with England.
12 Nick Tompkins (Saracens & Oaklands College)
Tompkins has plenty of first team experience but is yet to become a cemented first choice, despite playing for England Saxons in South Africa this summer. This season could be his chance to secure a centre berth with Saracens, most likely his more natural 13 channel, outside Brad Barritt.
11 Howard Packman (Northampton Saints & Moulton College)
Packman has been on the cusp of a breathrough for a while now, his appearances on dual registration in the Championship have been excellent, and anyone that saw him in the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s would agree that he has talent. This season could be the year that he really makes that big step.
10 Callum Sheedy (Bristol & Millfield)
The rise of Callum Sheedy was one of the stories of the Championship last year. Having been on loan at Cinderford all year, Sheedy answered Andy Robinson’s call as Bristol’s fly half crisis carried over to the play-offs, starting in both the semi finals and the finals, and bagging a couple of man of the match awards too. The going will be tough this year, with a full and fit roster of fly halves available for Bristol’s return to the Premiership, but Sheedy is already a club cult hero, and his performances to gain Bristol promotion will sure earn him a few chances.
9 Stuart Townsend (Exeter Chiefs & Ivybridge Community College)
Townsend has represented England through all of the age-grades, but has yet to really crack into the Exeter first team. This year could be the year though, Exeter’s scrum halves are getting older, while Townsend is a player who is ready to grab his chance.
1 Biyi Alo (Worcester Warriors & Haileybury)
2016/17 is a huge season for Alo. Saracens’ impressive roster of props saw Alo take the plunge and move to Worcester Warriors this summer, where he will be hoping to break into the first team as soon as possible. The bullock of a prop is a real talent, and one to watch at Worcester this year.
2 Jack Walker (Bath & Prince Henry’s Grammar School)
Walker is one of the most exciting young players in the country. He captained England’s U20 side this season, his third World Rugby U20 Championship, and was the youngest ever player to captain Yorkshire Carnegie, at just 18. He had a first team contract at just 16, and now that that has run its course, he has moved to Bath, where he will fast challenge the likes of Ross Batty and Tom Dunn for the number 2 shirt. After that, Dylan Hartley might be the next target on the Walker radar.
3 Ciaran Parker (Sale Sharks & St Ambrose College)
Parker perhaps did not get as many minutes as an U20 international as he might have deserved, due to a certain Paul Hill, now a senior England cap, grabbing the headlines. Be under no illusions though, Parker is a top player, and he could really make a challenge for even more game time at Sale Sharks next year.
4 Tom Ellis (Bath & Millfield)
Ellis’ junior career was a mirror with Charlie Ewels’, they played England U18 together, U20 together, Bath Academy together. So seeing Ewels’ rapid rise in the last couple of years can’t have been easy, he played for England Saxons and Bath, even captaining the club on occasion, while Ellis toiled in the academy and on loan. This year though Ellis has got his first team contract, and with the likes of Stuart Hooper and Dom Day departing, this could be the year that Ellis makes the mark that he has been promising to alongside Ewels for so many years.
5 George Nott (Sale Sharks & King’s School, Chester)
Nott was arguably England’s best player at the World Rugby U20 Championships, despite playing theoretically out of position at blindside flanker. The rangy lock has a good mix of power, pace, and a good rugby brain, and if he carries on his form from the U20s then Sale would be foolish not to give him game time this year. Definitely a man to keep an eye on.
6 Huw Taylor (Worcester Warriors & Old Swinford Hospital)
Taylor is something of a machine, the former Old Swinford Hospital skipper has been a dominant force for England and Worcester at all age-grades, and this season he looks set to start breaking into the Worcester 1st XV and trying to dominate in the Premiership. He is a tireless workaholic, adept in both the front and back rows. He even played in a U18 Schools Cup final at just 15.
7 Will Evans (Leicester Tigers & Wyygeston)
Will Evans is the name on the lips of many an England fan – could he be the long awaited ‘proper’ openside, the player fans have been waiting for? Eddie Jones clearly thinks so, he watches recordings of all of Evans’ training sessions, and has included him in his extended EPS. All this despite Evans only making his Tigers debut earlier this year, and having played in the World Rugby U20 Championships in June. This could be a year where Evans not only becomes a club regular, but also an England player. Too soon? Perhaps, but Evans will certainly make a mark this year.
8 James Chisholm (Harlequins & Brighton College)
Chisholm has long been earmarked to make a big impact at the top of the game, he captained England U18, was named the World Rugby U20 Player of the Year in 2015, and has made a good number of Harlequins appearances too, culminating in England Saxons selection this summer. Opportunities have been a little slimmer than they might be at Quins though, simply due to the number of options they have, however with Nick Easter retiring, this could be Chisholm’s chance to cement his place in that back row.
16 Tom Woolstencroft (Wasps & Bryanston) 17 Alex Lundberg (Wasps & Hampton) 18 Will Stuart (Wasps & Radley College) 19 Devante Onojaife (Northampton Saints & Stowe) 20 Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints & St Joseph’s College) 21 Henry Taylor (Saracens & Cranleigh) 22 Sam Olver (Northampton Saints & Oundle) 23 Zach Kibirige (Newcastle Falcons & Yarm)