After a couple of weeks of waiting, the final part of our Gallagher Premiership Senior Academy Intake series is finally here.
Newcastle Falcons, Sale Sharks, and Saracens have all now confirmed their Senior Academy Intakes for the 2020/21 season and, like the other ten clubs before them, they are packed with exciting young players, among them a number that will surely go on to achieve not only Premiership success, but international recognition, too.
Those three clubs are the focus of Part 4 in this series, but to see the exciting crop of school leavers joining Bath Rugby, Bristol Bears, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, Northampton Saints, Wasps, and Worcester Warriors, please do check out Parts 1, 2, and 3 via the links below.
James Blackett (RGS Newcastle, scrum half)
Just three players join the Newcastle Falcons Senior Academy from school as they rejoin the Gallagher Premiership for the 2020/21 season and it is no surprise to see that Blackett is one of them. Blackett starred for RGS Newcastle over the last few years and was a key figure in their St Joseph’s Festival win in 2018. Capable of played both scrum half and fly half, he has primarily been signed as a 9 but having played 10 for school and Newcastle Falcons U18 do not be surprised to see him turn out there too, not least due to an outstanding kicking game.
Phil Brantingham (RGS Newcastle, loosehead prop)
Brantingham is surely a star in the waiting, capable of playing on either side of the scrum but primarily a loosehead, Brantingham has been utterly dominant for RGS Newcastle, Falcons U18, and England U18. A leader in every team he plays in and a beast in the set piece as well as a talented player in the loose, Brantingham is one to really look out for. In tandem with Fin Baxter at Harlequins you could be looking at the future of England props in this year’s Senior Academy intake.
Matthew Ward (Gosforth Academy, wing)
Ward has been a sensation for Gosforth Academy, the Newcastle Falcons AASE (now ACE) side, earning himself recognition through the Falcons U18 side and then with England U18. Pace to burn and a try scoring ability that has been almost unrivalled, Ward seems to be able to put in the same level of performance no matter what the team or the occasion and he is going to be a player to watch as he progresses through the ranks.
Tumy Onasanya (Pendleton 6th form College, loosehead prop)
Onasanya has been on Sale’s radar for a long while but he absolute burst into the wider schools rugby public’s consciousness early on in 2020 when he was named in the extended England U18 squad. The Pendleton 6th form College loosehead is now handed a professional contract at Sale Sharks and given their track record with youth at the moment it seems wise to expect that Onasanya’s rise will continue. An exciting prospect.
Ethan Caine (Kirkham Grammar, hooker)
Another young front rower with England U18 experience, Caine impressed throughout his school career at Kirkham Grammar School, who have become a serious part of the Sale Sharks production line. With Steve Diamond and Dorian West on the coaching staff, Caine will have no shortage of advice on the technicalities of being a hooker, and he will surely quickly be putting that advice into practice.
Ewan Murphy (Lymm High School, second row)
Another off the Lymm High School production line, and Ewan Murphy is another to get very excited about for Sale Sharks fans. The second row was a part of the England U18 squad last season and will be aiming to push for England U20 selection in the coming season. Plenty of competition in the beefy Sale Sharks pack for Murphy, but at his age that should fill him with excitement as he picks the brains of the likes of Lood de Jager.
Joe Bedlow (Myerscough College, centre)
Bedlow emerged as one of the very best young centres in the country last year. In the AASE League (now ACE) he was impressive for Myerscough College, and then in the U18 Academy League with Sale’s U18 side he was outstanding. Sale are packed with young talent in the 10/12/13 channels but the England U18 international more than earns his place amongst that talented young roster, and will surely be seen in a 1st XV shirt before too long.
Elliot Gourlay (Kirkham Grammar, full back)
Gourlay is an incredibly versatile player, turning out for Kirkham Grammar School and Sale Sharks U18s last year at fly half, inside centre, and full back. It appears to be the backfield that Sale have signed him up as but that versatility could prove to be a real weapon in his arsenal going forward. Similarly to Bedlow, he moves into an area of the team in which there is already a huge amount of young talent but, like Bedlow, there is every reason to expect that Gourlay will more than hold his own in such company.
Tristan Smith (Felsted, prop)
In a year group saturated with talented young front row players, Smith still managed to break into the England U18 setup, a mark of just what an impressive young player he is. A product of Felsted, who can claim the likes of Max Malins and Rory Hutchinson among their alumni, Smith is a proper modern day prop forward whose tutelage under former Wasps prop Andrew Le Chevalier, head of rugby at Felsted, will have helped him a huge amount. With some world class front rowers at Saracens to learn from now, expect big things from Smith.
Sam Bryan (Felsted, scrum half)
Bryan is a hugely exciting young scrum half and another off the Felsted production line. An England U18 international and a key cog for school, club, and country, Bryan will be eager to start pressing his case at senior level as fast as possible. In the Championship next year his competition at scrum half will be Tom Whiteley, Aled Davies, and Alex Day, and Bryan will surely be hoping to be able to mix it with them as soon as possible.
Alex Wardell (Felsted, second row)
Wardell makes it three Felsted leavers in the Saracens Senior Academy next year. He will also be at University while developing his rugby at Saracens, but the young lock will be looking at the senior squad’s options in the second row and surely thinking that he has an opportunity to soak in information from that talented roster as he seeks to develop his already promising career.
Toby Knight (Berkhamsted, number 8)
Knight was one of the most dynamic back rowers in the whole of schools rugby last year. An exciting carrier, who can also pack a punch, Knight was a part of the England U18 squad before injury and then COVID-19 got in the way. One of the most exciting players in this Saracens academy intake, Knight will have plenty of competition in the back row in what is a strong area for Saracens. If his school career is anything to go by, he will rise to the challenge and is one that fans should be very excited about.
Tom Mills (Langley Park, wing)
Hailing from Langley Park Tom Mills impressed over the last few school rugby seasons and deservedly earns his place in the Saracens Senior Academy. During the U18 Academy League season he turned in some impressive performances, showing great maturity throughout. The variety of back three players at Saracens means that he will have a chance to learn from all sorts of different styles of play on the wing, the consistently impressive Sean Maitland, exciting rising star Rotimi Segun, electric Alex Lewington, Mr Reliable Duncan Taylor, and the classy and versatile Elliot Daly to name but a few. Exciting times ahead for Tom Mills and Saracens.
Samson Adejimi (Davenant Foundation, hooker)
Adejimi will combine his time in the Saracens Senior Academy with his studies at Brunel University in conjunction with Ealing Trailfinders. That in itself should excite Saracens fans as the exposure and opportunity that he will gain through that will be invaluable. A class apart at Davenant Foundation, Adejimi also impressed hugely for Saracens U18 last year and will be hoping to kick on even further through that tie in for him between Saracens and Ealing Trailfinders.
Brandon Jackson (Sutton Valence, centre)
Like Adejimi, Jackson will combine his time in the Saracens Senior Academy with a university degree at Brunel University in conjunction with Ealing Trailfinders. The young centre was majestic at times in the U18 Academy League for Saracens and was absolutely key in the last couple of years for Sutton Valence who, under his influence in the last few years, have been producing some outstanding results and have had some deep runs in the U18 Schools Cup. Jackson was at the centre of most of that and is a player that could do very well as he moves into the professional ranks.
Jevaughn Warren (Oaklands College, prop)
Warren’s 2019/20 season was besieged first by injury, then by COVID, yet in his time before last season he had still done enough for Saracens to offer him a place in the Senior Academy for the 2020/21 season. The loosehead will continue his studies at Oaklands College alongside his rugby at Saracens, and back to full fitness expect his rugby to hit some excellent heights. Saracens have huge amounts of faith in him and it should be exciting to see him flourish and reward that faith.
That’s it for our Gallagher Premiership 2020/21 Senior Academy Intake series, all that remains is to see these talented young stars in action.
We hope to be able to do similar series for players around the rest of the UK and Ireland, and beyond, but in the meantime to check out Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the series!