Hartpury College in Gloucestershire has joined a select band of further education establishments in England after being named a Beacon College for rugby by the Rugby Football Union.
Hartpury is the third college in the South West to achieve Beacon status, which together with the second-tier Accredited College award sets standards of providing rugby to students and working alongside RFU staff and other partners.
Gloucester Rugby have, of course, enjoyed a close relationship with Hartpury College for some years now with the team's training base located at the College and a number of Academy players gaining valuable playing experience with Hartpury.
Peter Bath, the RFU's National Student Development Manager, said:
"I am delighted that Hartpury College has achieved the Beacon College Award. We have developed the award in partnership with British Colleges Sport to encourage colleges to raise standards and to celebrate the great work that is taking place in Further Education across the country."
"The award recognises that the college is offering a great environment for rugby players to develop while combining it with a full range of educational opportunities."
The RFU works alongside the Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW), British Colleges Sport (BCS) and Constituent Body Rugby Development Partnerships to support and develop the game of rugby in colleges of further education.
The RFU, RFUW and BCS can offer through this programme a range of development tools, resources, courses and support to suit the needs of the individual college in return for the college developing the game from within.
Peter Bath added:
"We are aiming to reach a total of around 30 Accredited Colleges and a dozen Beacon Colleges in the next 18 months."
"It helps raise standards of rugby provision and also gives students aged 16-plus a guide of where to carry on with their rugby. And we would like colleges to start leading the process."
Beacon Awards (6)(at August 1, 2009)
Accredited Awards (13)(at August 1, 2009)
Basingstoke College of Technology (BCOT)
Richard Huish College
Queen Mary's College
6th Form Colchester College
Henley College, Coventry
South Nottingham College
Peterborough Regional College
It's the first Gloucester-Bristol derby at Kingsholm in over eight years this Saturday (kick off 4:30pm) and, previewing the game with the local media this week, Defence Coach Jonny Bell stressed that, with both teams in the bottom half of the table, they both need the points.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester front rower John Afoa knows the challenge ahead this week against Bristol, and calls on the Cherry and Whites to make the most of home advantage as a determined squad look to bounce back from a narrow loss to Saracens.
Tom Savage speaks to GRTV and the local media as Gloucester went down by 24-20 at Saracens on Sunday afternoon. The second row was disappointed with the result, despite a strong showing from the hosts.
Speaking immediately after the game, skipper Willi Heinz thought that Gloucester had executed their game plan reasonably well and competed hard against Saracens. However, it wasn't enough but the squad will have plenty to work on this week ahead of the derby match against Bristol.
Gloucester may be coming off their best win of the season, the 38-16 victory over Wasps last weekend, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys admits that Sunday's trip to Saracens is an even tougher test.
After a series of contract announcements last week, hooker Richard Hibbard is the latest Gloucester Rugby player to commit to a new contract at the club and told GRTV how much he enjoys playing in the Cherry and White of Gloucester.
A try scorer in the 36-18 Aviva Premiership win over Wasps at Kingsholm on Saturday, Charlie Sharples admitted that Gloucester would enjoy the moment but can't get too carried away. The team got what they deserved but the winger wants these performances to be more frequent.
England Head Coach Eddie Jones has made two changes to his side to play Australia in Saturday's final match of the Old Mutual Wealth Series at Twickenham Stadium (kick-off 2.30pm, live on Sky Sports 2). Jonny May lines up on the left wing.