Gloucester Rugby have six players who have been called up to train with the England U20 camp, more than any other Academy in the Premiership.
Arthur Clark, Jack Clement, Freddie Thomas and Ethan Hunt have been named in the Elite Playing Squad (EPS) with Louis Hillman-Cooper and Matty Jones joining the group to train after other players became unavailable.
The U20 Six Nations competition has been postponed due to the pandemic, but the hope is that the fixtures will go ahead in May or June.
The international recognition is another example of the success of the Gloucester Rugby Academy which has been producing a production line of talent for the first team for a number of years.
Gloucester Rugby’s Head of Academy, Peter Walton, is pleased to see players getting the recognition they deserve for their hard work.
“Gloucester Rugby has a tradition of bringing players through," Walton said. "It’s a credit to the staff the way the Academy is going. I’ve been at the club two years now and the lads who have been called up have been through their own merit.
“It’s a steppingstone for them. They know that they want to get into that Premiership side and playing international rugby alongside it, it gives them credit for the work they’ve put in.”
The Academy players have not had an easy 12 months with the Coronavirus pandemic. Many of them finished their final year at school under restrictions and they have also been unable to play any rugby matches, unless they have been called up to the first team.
“It’s been a tough time for these boys and the majority of them were doing A Levels last year and they ended up not doing their exams, so they’ve had a tough time and they know that they’ve got to keep working hard.
“The biggest challenge has been that we’ve had to adapt. We’ve been doing a lot of Zoom calls with the Academy and trying different ways of doing things. The Senior Academy has been fortunate because they’ve been in training but it’s frustrating because they haven’t played any rugby because they’re not in the first team, which is the only team that’s playing. Some have had opportunities, but others haven’t and they’re desperate to play so they’ve been training really hard.”
Gloucester Rugby has always had strength in its Academy but since George Skivington’s arrival last summer, the club have made it clear that they plan to recruit from within with the aim of seeing local talent take the field in the Cherry and White shirt.
Walton has already seen a number of the Academy players step up.
“All these lads are local boys. They’re all Gloucestershire kids which shows the talent we have in the area. These lads are potential Gloucester Rugby first team players and that’s what George Skivington is trying to build on with the youngsters coming through which is exciting.
“Traditionally Gloucester Rugby has always been strong. They’re good players but they just need time. There’s no rush for them to come into the first team. They need time and we’ve got to back our judgement, and we do, that they’ll get to the first team when they’re ready.”
A further example of the success of the Gloucester Rugby Academy is how many players have been named in the senior Six Nations squads. Jonny May is playing with England, Louis Rees-Zammit for Wales, Stephen Varney for Italy and Alex Craig for Scotland.
“The current Six nations squads, we’ve got the most in all the squads, we’ve got guys in England, Wales, Scotland and Italy which just shows that the Academy is producing players. We give players chances, and we stick by them so hopefully they stick by us. When somebody plays for the first team who’s played for the Academy, they will give a bit more because they are local boys and I think that’s a massive factor within Gloucestershire.”