For anyone not living in a cave so far this season, the name Marcus Smith will be familiar to you.
To fans of school rugby he was been well known for a while, but after finishing his school career in June, he has since started twice for Harlequins and been selected in the England training squad.
He is just the tip of the iceberg though in a season that so far has seen youth given a real chance in the Aviva Premiership. Each week the teamsheets come in and almost every club has included some very young and very exciting players.
For us here at Fifteen Rugby it has been fantastic to see. So often we talk about how small the gap from school playing fields to the professional ones can be, and this season is really starting to highlight that.
We therefore thought, following on from last week’s 2016/17 School Team of the Year XV, that we would put together a 2017/18 Young Aviva Premiership XV.
We tried to find the youngest players to have been involved in a matchday squad in each position (with a bit of artistic license, Harry Mallinder, for instance, is at full back but has been at fly half for Saints), and have put together a side that actually looks as though it might be seriously competitive.
Interestingly, despite conventional wisdom about forwards developing later, the pack is actually significantly younger than the back division. The average age in the pack is bang on 20, while in the backs it is 20.6. Of course the presence of the superstar Curry twins and Nick Isiekwe, all 19, has an impact there.
However the conventional wisdom that it takes longer to develop in the front row, particularly at prop, appears to be correct. The average age there is 21.8, with the two hookers the youngest of the six front rowers.
Here is that team, hopefully it inspires a few young school players and academy players as they see just how close an appearance in the Premiership can be given the right amount of work and dedication.
If you can think of anyone else who could be in the team, do send in your suggestions!
2017/18 Young Aviva Premiership XV:
1 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers, Hartpury College, 22)
2 Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors, Oaklands College, 21)
3 Paul Hill (Northampton Saints, Prince Henry’s, 22)
4 Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, Haileybury, 19)
5 Joe Maksymiw (Leicester Tigers, QEI & Wyggeston College, 21)
6 Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, Oundle, 19)
7 Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, Oundle, 19)
8 Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons, Gosforth Academy, 20)
9 Jack Maunder (Exeter Chiefs, Blundell’s, 20)
10 Marcus Smith (Harlequins, Brighton College, 18)
11 Ollie Thorley (Gloucester, Cheltenham College, 21)
12 Max Clark (Bath, Bryanston, 21)
13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins, Peter Symonds’, 21)
14 Nathan Earle (Saracens, Oaklands College, 22)
15 Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints, Rugby, 21)
16 Jack Walker (Bath, Prince Henry’s, 21)
17 Beno Obano (Bath, Dulwich College, 22)
18 Biyi Alo (Worcester Warriors, Haileybury, 23)
19 Stan South (Harlequins, Whitgift, 21)
20 Ben Earl (Saracens, Tonbridge, 19)
21 Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, Lymm High School, 20)
22 James Grayson (Northampton Saints, Moulton College, 19)
23 Jamie Shillcock (Worcester Warriors, Warwick, 20)
20.53 – Squad
20.27 – Starting XV
20 – Forwards (Starting)
20.57 – Backs (Starting)
20.63 – Bench
21.83 – All front row