Stepping Up: Spotlight on U21 players in Round 12 of the Gallagher Premiership

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Coach Logic

In this week’s Gallagher Premiership we saw fewer involvements for young players across the league than last as internationals returned from their 6 Nations squads.

However that didn’t stop a number from impressing with some even cementing their place in the starting XV and others making a strong case for promotion from the bench to a starting spot in the future, while there were two youngsters making debuts.

Leicester vs London Irish

Ollie Chessum – Back row

Jack Van Poortvliet – Scrum half

Freddie Steward – Fullback

Freddie Steward looks like one of those players that has cemented himself in Leicester’s strongest XV. The Tigers’ answer to Jordie Barrett looked secure under the high ball in a game with a lot of kicking and dangerous on counter-attack. A former student at Norwich School, Steward looks set to be a rock at the back for years to come for Leicester and even England.

Another academy product, Van Poortvliet, came on with 15 minutes to go and almost immediately set up a try for Murimurivalu, drawing defenders away from the hard running Fijian with excellent footwork. The former Oakham player was a real handful for an understrength Irish side although he will be disappointed with his knock on in the dying minutes resulting in a yellow card and penalty try.

Ollie Chessum furthered his reputation as a young player that Tigers can rely on, coming on early in the 2nd half at blindside this time and looking at home at this level. The former Carre’s Grammar pupil promptly scored from close range and worked hard on defence and as an outlet in the line out.

Chunya Munga – Lock

Ben Donnell – Back Row

Will Joseph – Wing

After having to sit on the bench for the whole game last week, Will Joseph (Millfield) got his opportunity after just 20 minutes, coming on for the injured Tom Parton. Joseph didn’t have a huge number of opportunities on the right wing but consistently looked for work and at times showed excellent pace as well as footwork to beat defenders. Ben Donnell, formerly of Peter Symonds College, came on for Blair Cowan at openside and put in the sort of workmanlike shift that Irish fans have come to expect while Chunya Munga, once of Leighton Park School, came off the bench in the last 10 minutes and used his significant bulk in the carry as his 14-man team clawed their way back into the game.

Sale vs Newcastle

Bevan Rodd – Loosehead prop

Raffi Quirke – Scrum half

Bevan Rodd seems to go from strength to strength and it is hard to believe his age given how well-rounded he appears at loosehead. The old Sedberghian provided more than a match for the experienced Mulipola at scrum time and contributed in the loose and as a jackler. Quirke (St Ambrose College) came on in the last 10 minutes and supplied good ball to his backs as Sale sealed the win.

Rob Farrar – Back row

For Newcastle, Rob Farrar (another former Sedbergh pupil) made his debut at blindside flanker and proved solid all round – offering himself in the line out and showing good work rate with his tackling, carrying and kick chase before coming off with 20 minutes to go.

Wasps vs Gloucester

Jack Clement – Back row

George Barton – Fly half

Making the step up from the bench last week, Barton looked composed in his first start for Gloucester. He was aided for much of the game by Twelvetrees outside him as they both orchestrated the team in attack despite losing Thorley early to a red card. The former Dean Close player can pleased with his contribution in such a high pressure position and made all 3 of his kicks for goal in a match that came down to a 1 point difference.

Similarly to last week, Jack Clement (Cheltenham College) came off the bench with 20 minutes to go and brought real energy on both sides of the ball as Wasps fought back towards the end of the match.

Harlequins vs Northampton

Ollie Sleightholme – Wing

Tommy Freeman – Fullback

Both players started in the Saints back three with Freeman involving himself frequently in attack. The ex Moulton College star generally showed good defensive positioning for the most part against some quality attacking play from Harlequins. 

Sleightholme was one of Saints’ best players in the first half, showing off his pace and strength with an excellent try saving tackle on Marchant as well as a turnover close to goal line. Another quality area of his game was his kick chase, consistently harrying Quins backs in the air or as soon as they hit the ground. He topped off his performance with a surging counter-attack and try early in the 2nd half before being substituted as he looked to have picked up an injury in the process. The former Northampton School for Boys player has made the most of his recent opportunities and has made himself hard to drop for Chris Boyd.

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