With almost a month of pre-season training with Gloucester Rugby already under his belt, James Voss is ready to hit the ground running as he links up with his Hartpury coaches and team-mates this week.
Second row Voss, who is making history as the first recipient of the Gloucester-Hartpury scholarship, has been loving life training with the Cherry and Whites at their Hartpury base in recent weeks, having made the move from Greene King Championship side Jersey.
And this week he had his first team meeting with the Hartpury RFC coaches and players as they got their pre-season underway.
Gloucester Rugby and Hartpury have launched the unique scholarship to support exceptional rugby talent for university students. The scheme provides financial support to a limited number of individuals who have the ability to pursue higher level study and who can demonstrate the potential to play at Premiership level.
Now Voss, who only turned 20 today, is excited to be heading back into education as well as taking his rugby development to the next level with Aviva Premiership side Gloucester and Hartpury RFC, who are gearing up for life in National League One following their promotion last season.
As the scholarship covers his accommodation and tuition fees, Voss will start a foundation degree in Sports Business Management at Hartpury in September - the same course that his Gloucester Rugby team-mate and England star Jonny May graduated from. May is now topping up to an honours degree at Hartpury.
Incredibly, talented lock Voss, who also enjoys playing in the back row, only started playing rugby when he was 15. He was then snapped up by Jersey when he was studying his A-levels, and has had a massive impact for them since making his debut against Newcastle Falcons aged just 18 - a game where he was also named Man of the Match.
While balancing study with a professional rugby career will be a new challenge for Voss, it is one that he is relishing.
"Rugby is obviously what I want to do but it can be a very short career and I need to look at my options.
"I was told about the trial at Hartpury for the scholarship by my agent, and as it happened, I was playing in Bristol that weekend, so I stayed on to take part in the selection process.
"All I knew about Hartpury was that it was an established sports college but the trial gave me an insight into what life here could be like and it was an easy decision to accept the scholarship and get the chance to study and play here.
"It's definitely the best place to be as an elite sports person. You are surrounded by other people on sports courses and playing at a top level, so you really feel part of a community.
"This scholarship is the perfect package for me as it gives me the opportunity to get a good qualification at the same time as developing my rugby. I've not written an essay in three years so it will be a bit of a shock but I'm looking forward to it. It's important to prepare myself for life after rugby and get the skills I need to push on with a career."
It is hoped that Voss will follow in the footsteps of the likes of Koree Britton, Billy Burns, Gareth Evans, May, Ryan Mills, Steph Reynolds, Dan Robson, Tom Savage, Charlie Sharples, Elliott Stooke and Henry Trinder, who have all studied at Hartpury and starred for Gloucester Rugby. He's certainly determined to make the most of the opportunity he has been given.
"The facilities at Hartpury are amazing and being involved with Gloucester - from the coaching to the gyms, the physio and the medical staff - it's a massive step-up," said Voss.
"But I've been made really welcome by my team-mates and my coaches, and I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone involved with the Hartpury set-up too. It's great being involved on both fronts, learning new skills that I can apply to my game.
"I'm ambitious and of course it's my dream to play in the Premiership but I just want to play at the best level I can and give it my all in every game I play."
Hartpury's director of rugby, Alan Martinovic, said:
"James is a hugely exciting prospect and it's great to now have him on board. Of course, we already have a proven track record of working alongside Gloucester Rugby to ensure that players reach their full potential - the amount of students on our rugby programme who have gone on to play at the highest level are testament to that.
"The Gloucester-Hartpury scholarship is yet another important development in this hugely successful partnership.
As well as supporting players with the potential to succeed in the professional game to develop their rugby career, it will help prepare them for life after sport - either through injury or retirement - by giving them a first-class education and the skills they will need to forge a career."
If you are interested in applying for the Gloucester-Hartpury scholarship for 2015, you will also need to apply for a university course at Hartpury.
There's a wide range of academic programmes for you to choose from, including Sports Coaching, Sports Performance and Sport Therapy.
To find out more about the scholarship and the opportunities available at Hartpury, go to www.hartpury.ac.uk/rugbyscholarship
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