The England Under-20s team picked to face France this weekend is again packed with Hartpury talent with nine of the starting line-up having ties to the college.
While full-back and former Hartpury student, Sydney Gregson, returns to the team, hooker May Campbell (another Hartpury graduate) and centre and current student Holly Aitchinson have been promoted into the starting XV, having impressed from the bench in the 41-12 win over the British Army at Aldershot last time out.
Retaining their starting places to face France in the first of a double header at Esher RFC on Saturday, March 5th (3pm kick-off) are former Hartpury A-level student Millie Wood, A-level graduates Lucy Nye (scrum-half) and number eight Zoe Aldcroft, along with current students, fly-half Zoe Harrison, 17 – who has been given special dispensation by the RFU to play in this game – as well as prop and A-level student Ellena Perry, 18 and second row Molly Morrissey.
While Harrison and Perry are part of the college’s successful AASE side, Sports Business Management degree student Morrissey currently stars for Hartpury’s British University and Colleges Sport side along with Physical Education and School Sport degree student Kelly Smith, 20, who is named on the bench for this game.
Hartpury graduates, Jessie Hood and Sarah Bern, are also among the replacements, with Hartpury talent making up 12 of coach Jo Yapp’s 23-woman squad.
Those on show will be hoping to emulate the rise through the rugby ranks experienced by former students like Ceri Large, Alex Matthews and Megan Jones, who went on to represent England at senior level after being part of the women’s rugby set-up at Hartpury.
Another former Hartpury star, Abbie Brown, has just been selected as part of a British sevens team to feature in two warm-up tournaments for the Rio Olympics.
She was one of 12 players who headed out to Las Vegas yesterday to play in the USA Sevens International Tournament (March 3-5).
Hartpury College’s women’s rugby coach, LJ Adams said: “I’m chuffed to bits that so many of the girls in our women’s rugby programme have been picked to face France. It’s just reward for the huge amount of hard work they have put in.
“I want us to be at the forefront of delivering the blueprint for the development of women’s rugby players internationally and I believe that Hartpury, and the other colleges that deliver the junior rugby academies, should be the go-to feeder for the England Elite Player Squad (EPS) selectors, in the same way that the men’s academies have become.
“Having 12 players with Hartpury ties picked to represent their country against France is testament to the strength of our women’s rugby programme and we’ll continue to support the girls to go from strength to strength in their rugby and in their studies.”
Saturday will mark the first of two games against France, with the second away at Chantilly RFC on Saturday, March 19th. England Under-20s will be looking to improve on last season’s double-header, when they lost 25-0 away and 10-5 at home.