Half term means a shortage of fixtures and news on the schools rugby front, however there has still been plenty of exciting rugby news of particular interest to the schools circuits.
First of Eddie Jones named his England squad for the Autumn internationals on Wednesday. Column inches have poured in thick and fast in the national papers, with the return on Tom Wood the big headline for many.
However here at Fifteen Rugby the name that really stood out was that of Bath second row Charlie Ewels.
Ewels played for Bryanston School when we first bean covering the school game, and even then he was a noticeably special player, a powerful and authoritative second row. Whisper it quietly, but there is something of the Martin Johnson about the man who skippered England to the World Rugby U20 Championship final in 2015.
That’s right, just eighteen months ago Ewels was an U20 international, and he is just the latest of that superb production line of U20 talent that has seen three titles in four years with the other side still reaching the final.
From those four sides we have already seen Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Ollie Devoto, Sam Hill, Paul Hill, Jack Clifford, Luke Cowan-Dickie, and of course the irrepressible Maro Itoje, progress to either full England caps or England squad recognition, while Will Evans and Joe Marchant from last year’s victorious side were named in the wider EPS this year.
Even within that context though, Ewels’ rise is impressive. The second row is possibly the most competitive position in the England squad, let alone the first team. It is hard to believe that two second rows of the quality of Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes cannot get a start, but with Itoje and George Kruis starting, that is what happens.
The likes of Dave Attwood and Ed Slater haven’t been able to get near the squad for a while, and not through lack of quality.
So it is in that context that Ewels rise is should be seen. Sure, Itoje and Kruis are both out, but this is still an incredibly difficult England squad to get into as a second row.
It is a testament not just to the work of the academies and the England player pathway and age-group teams that these youngsters are pouring into the senior squad now, the schools that produced them should take huge credit too.
As they should for those who are making waves at club level too, and there was big news on that front this week as Worcester Warriors award the former Warwick School star Jamie Shillcock a 1st XV contract after some sensational performances this season.
Shillcock first appeared for Worcester in the middle of his A levels as a scrum half during the Championship play offs in the 2014/15 season, which Worcester eventually gained promotion through.
Last year he represented the England U20 side in the 6 Nations, but this year seems to be his big breakthrough. The former U15 Schools Cup winner is normally a scrum half or fly half but has thrived at full back for the side this year, earning that 1st XV contract.
In school news there has not been much play in the last few days, however a number of sides are on tour. Canford beat a Blackrock College Development XV in Dublin on Tuesday, while Kirkham Grammar School played a thriller against the Blackrock College 1st XV on Saturday. Brian O’Driscoll’s former school just stole that one though, winning 28-23.
There was a big game on Saturday as schools rugby legends Sedbergh took on perennial NatWest Cup high performers, Wimslow High School.
Sedbergh were in truly sublime form though, winning by a brilliant 41-0 margin to once again make a huge statement about just what a top side they are. When we return from half term, expect them to maintain their position near the top of the Daily Mail Trophy.
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