England’s vaunted university rugby culture will be at the fore after a number of promising college-level players were selected for the country’s academy sevens team to play at this week’s training tournament in Naples, Italy.
The 12-strong squad will take on Germany, Ireland, France and Italy in a round-robin tournament on Thursday and Friday, giving the England coaching team a chance to assess talent for future inclusion in the elite World Series squad.
Among the squad are two players from St Mary’s University – Aaron Grandidier-Nkanang and Cameron Tucker-White. The 12 also feature players from the England academy and clubs.
“This is a brilliant opportunity for our England academy players to drive and lead the team out in Italy and to demonstrate how much they have progressed since coming on board at the beginning of the season,” coach John Brake said in a press release.
“As well as providing these players with some meaningful game time, this tournament also gives us the chance to expose the group of players that we’ve identified through our relationships with clubs and universities to the challenges and demands of playing at an international level. This is so important for their progression if they are to play on the world stage one day.”
England Men Sevens introduced an academy programme in 2015 and has since seen a number of players advance into the senior squad where they have featured regularly on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Brake added: “These tournaments and our relationships with clubs and universities are hugely important to us as a programme as we look to continue to build depth within our squad.”
Grandidier-Nkanang is from the Old Elthamians RFC and Tucker-White from the Rugby Performance Programme at St Mary’s, which offering talented rugby players the opportunity to pursue the sport and tertiary studies at the same time.
This scholarship combines higher education studies with high-level professional rugby union support, offering excellence on the pitch and in the classroom, covering the full costs of tuition and accommodation fees (including meals), worth around £50,000 for the duration of a player’s studies.
Successful applicants will join the Men’s Rugby Performance Programme (MRPP) that grants access to high-quality professional coaching, strength & conditioning services, performance analysis, rehabilitation and massage services, performance workshops and use of the University’s world-class training facilities.
England Men Sevens academy squad:
Michael Adlard (Hull RFC)
Taju Atta (Wasps)
Jamie Barden (England Men Sevens)
Max Coyle (Unattached)
George de Cothi (Loughborough University)
Aaron Grandidier-Nkanang (St Mary’s University)
Fergus Guiry (Loughborough University)
Ben Harris (England Men Sevens)
Femi Sofolarin (England Men Sevens)
Charlie Spawforth (Durham University)
Cameron Tucker-White (St Mary’s University)
Tom Walsh (Loughborough University)
Main photo: credit England Rugby; Aaron Grandidier-Nkanang photo courtesy of St Mary’s University