There has been no shortage of news around former Hartpury student, AASE-winner and RFC man Ross Moriarty this week, as it was confirmed that he will complete a much-anticipated move back to Wales at the end of the current season.
The Wales and British Lions back-row man will be playing his rugby for Newport Gwent Dragons from the start of the 2018-19 campaign, ending his six year association with Gloucester Rugby, in a move that has divided opinion among Cherry and Whites supporters.
However, if there is one place in Gloucestershire where Moriarty can always be assured of a warm welcome, it is at the Gillman’s Ground, home of Hartpury RFC.
In many ways, the progress that Moriarty has made in his game since arriving at Hartpury as a 16-year old in 2010 is emblematic of the progress made by Hartpury as a rugby-playing institution, both in student rugby and in the adult game.
It is timely, therefore, that as we revive memories of Moriarty’s time at Hartpury, we celebrate the fact that Hartpury’s Junior Academy have recently qualified for their eighth AASE final in nine seasons. They will play Gosforth Academy, closely linked with the Newcastle Falcons, at Allianz Park (home of Saracens), next Wednesday.
There was little in Moriarty’s arrival at Hartpury that indicated the successes ahead, as Director of Rugby, John Barnes, remembers.
“He arrived after being released by the Ospreys academy where he had been playing as a full-back. Ross is one of a number of players whose careers have been massively influenced by a change of position, as well as the coaching they have received, whilst at Hartpury.
Ellis Genge and Jonas Mikalcius are other good examples of players who have subsequently gone on to professional careers after a change of position,” Barnes said.
“Ross moved into the back row pretty early in his time here and ended up progressing really fast. He won two AASE titles as a student player and went on to be capped by England at both Under-18 and Under-20.
He also played two seasons for Hartpury RFC in National League 2 and was a key part of the squad who got us promoted in 2014, along with lads like Billy Burns and Elliott Stooke.
He’s been a fantastic part of Hartpury rugby over the past few years, as well as Gloucester, and to become a British Lion was great for him and also great for us. His move to Wales should help him with his international future and we very much hope that there are more World Cups and Lions tours ahead of him.
Understandably, playing at that level is part of his ambitions. We continue to wish him every success and he knows that he’ll be welcome back here at any time.”
Meanwhile, the success of this year’s AASE squad means that Hartpury have another national final to look forward to one week’s time.
“Over the years, the guys that have come out of our Under-18 programme have been exceptional,” said Barnes.
“In the same year that Ross won his second AASE title you had Elliott Stooke, Billy Burns, Callum Braley, Ellis Genge, Steph Reynolds and Jonny Hill all in the side. In earlier years we produced players like Dan Robson and Ryan Mills, but obviously I could go on and on.
“Last year we literally had 20 minutes of bad rugby and ended up missing out on the final. This season the boys have been outstanding, with only one bonus point dropped. It’s a really good crop of players and they’ve been excellently coached.
Newcastle will be tough, a very attack-minded team, but after a great win down at Exeter last week the boys will be fully focused on regaining the AASE title that we lost last year.”