Calling all junior rugby players!

Could you (or your son/nephew/grandson) be the next Louis Rees-Zammit or Stephen Varney?

Both boys have recently made headlines by breaking into the Gloucester Rugby first team before going on to make full international debuts at the age of 19 – just a little more than a year after leaving the Junior Rugby Academy at Hartpury College.

They have joined the likes of Jonny May (Gloucester & England), Ross Moriarty (Dragons, Wales and British & Irish Lions), Ellis Genge (Tigers and England), Dan Norton (England 7s record try-scorer), Dan Robson (Wasps and England), Billy Burns (Ulster and Ireland) and Jonny Hill (Chiefs and England) in building on the dream that they all shared when joining the Gloucestershire-based college at the age of 16.

Add, to them, the scores of players who have gone on to play rugby professionally – be it in the Premiership, the Championship, the Pro 14 or other professional leagues – and it is clear that Hartpury is an ideal launching pad for boys wanting to make their way in the sport.

Both Louis and Stephen attended our Junior Rugby Academy Assessment Day as a precursor to their arrival as players here.  We currently offer two assessment days per year, the second of which, for the 2021 student intake, is scheduled for Tuesday, 16th February, 2021.

Academy Manager, Wayne Thompson, explains what boys attending can expect.

“It’s a chance to come and see the campus and understand what rugby is all about here in terms of the quality of play.  The boys don’t need to have made an application to be accepted into the assessment.”

“It also gives us, as coaches, the first chance to look at the players who might be coming to the college in the following season – or who at least have Hartpury College under consideration – and it starts to enable us to see where players may place in our various Under-18 teams in the future.”

“Everyone comes in on a level playing field – there are no preconceptions based on what they might have done previously.”

“Within the current national governing body guidelines we will have some limitations in terms of what we can ask players to do, but we can do skills rotations, with experienced coaches across all the positions and then we’ll run conditioned touch games within the RFU ‘Ready for Rugby’ Covid-19 guidelines.”

“We can still evaluate players on qualities like attitude and work-rate, as well as seeing how their skills hold up under pressure.”

So, does it all come down to performance on the day?

“No, there is quite a rigorous process in terms of ensuring that we place the players in the appropriate squad level.  Apart from the initial assessment days, we also offer a main trial day in May when all players are invited back for further evaluation.”

“Then, for those players who have definitely applied for and been awarded an academic place at Hartpury, we’ll run another in-house assessment once they have arrived here.  So there are three good opportunities for us to get a good feel for players before they’ve even properly started their first term.”

“Across our entire junior programme we would expect to have around 250 players at any given time, so around 125 lads will come into Hartpury Rugby each year with the Assessment Day as their starting point.”

“Louis and Stephen are outstanding recent examples of how well our system operates, with both making full international debuts within recent weeks, so soon after leaving the College.”

“Steve really sticks out, as he came to us as a player we knew absolutely nothing about when he first turned up.”

“Via our processes he was identified as one of the better players in his position (scrum-half) but not, at that stage, the best.  It took him a while to decide to come over from West Wales – he’d never boarded before – and he did have a bit of a wobble in his first few weeks.”

“But history shows that, having stuck it out and developed at Hartpury, he has really reaped the rewards.”

“He wasn’t a first-team player in his first year – it took him a few months to really develop to where we felt he could be – but he was able to work his way through our hierarchy and was our first-choice 9 by the time he got to his second year.”

“The major benefit that he had from being here, apart from the coaching, was being in and around top players on a day-to-day basis, which really helped him in his development.”

Players wishing to register for the Rugby Assessment Day in February can do so here: https://www.hartpury.ac.uk/college/why-hartpury/academies/sports-academy-assessment-days/

Please note:  Rugby Assessment Days are separate from our College Open Days.  It is strongly recommended that players attend an academic Open Day as well as applying for rugby assessment, as eventual progression into our teams will, of course, be contingent upon being a registered full-time Hartpury student.

Hartpury College offers A Levels, as well as vocational qualifications across a range of subject areas, including sport and agriculture.

Registration for academic Open Days is available here: https://www.hartpury.ac.uk/college/open-days/

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