Things may be quiet on the domestic front at the moment – we are still six or seven weeks away from any competitive pre-season action – but a number of Hartpury players, past and present, are still flat out!
In senior international rugby, Ross Moriarty is looking more and more like the ‘real deal’ as part of a Welsh back row that pushed the All Blacks all the way in Auckland last weekend. Having made his breakthrough during Wales’ RWC 2015 campaign, his subsequent performances in the red jersey have been impressive enough to suggest that Dan Lydiate will face stiff competition for the number 6 shirt when he recovers from injury. Ross, who was an AASE winner during his student days at Hartpury, last played regularly for the RFC during our promotion from League 2 in 2013-14.
Pre-dating him by a year or two, scrum-half Dan Robson, now of Wasps, has done his chances of full England international recognition no harm through consistently strong performances at club level, followed by a good start to the England Saxons tour of South Africa last weekend. Dan, like Ross, won England U20 honours during his time as an RFC player and looks a good bet to follow the likes of Jonny May and Charlie Sharples into the national side.
Another former student, Sale Sharks full-back Mike Haley, is also in line to win another Saxons cap as he benefits from the strong form he has shown this season in the Aviva Premiership.
Also threatening to make a break-through at full test level is current Sports Business Management under-graduate, Sebastian Negri. Seb, who spent much of last season recovering from a pectoral injury, was nonetheless called into the Italy ‘A’ squad for a summer tournament in Romania. Based on performances there, against the Uruguayan national team and Argentina ‘A’, he has now been drafted into the full Italian national squad as they prepare for tests against USA and Canada over the next two weekends.
Injuries have meant that new Italy coach Conor O’Shea has had to look for a strong utility forward to boost his resources and Seb’s recent form was enough to earn him an express journey from Bucharest to San Francisco!
As always, Hartpury is well-represented at age group rugby. England play Australia today in their final group game in the World Rugby U20 championship and scrum half Harry Randall follows yet another Hartpury connection (in addition to Robson), Callum Braley, in wearing the England 9 shirt. Harry’s story is remarkable as, only a few weeks ago, he was still playing U18 rugby for England having played a key role in Hartpury’s seventh successive AASE Championship win during the college season and then helping Gloucester Rugby to the final of the U18 Premiership Academies competition.
His first two U20 caps came off the bench versus Italy and Scotland, but performances in those games have seen him boosted to a starting berth this time out. Fly-half Mat Protheroe, another former AASE star who played in all of England’s U20 Six Nations matches, is ineligible for the current tournament.
Also at U20 level, forward Alex Craig – an U18 cap last year – is representing Scotland in Manchester. He played in the historic win over Australia in then opening fixture before missing out against England (a heavy defeat for the Scots). However he is back on the bench for today’s game with Italy. Reuben Norville, a first year undergraduate, has also appeared for Scotland during the tournament, playing for a large part of the England match on his debut.
The U20 players follow in strong tradition which has seen Hartpury provide a host of players for all of the home nations and many other international sides over the past 10 years, including a number of the successful England teams that won the World Championship in 2013 and 2014.
Keep up the good work, boys.