Seven of Hartpury’s table-topping rugby recruits pitched themselves against the best England Rugby has to offer today as Eddie Jones’ men stepped up their preparations for the defence of their Six Nations crown.
University students from Hartpury’s British Universities and Colleges (BUCS) rugby squads, Robbie Forbes, Kai Little, Danny Openshaw, Harry Agnew, Tom Pashley, Max Clemenston and Matthew Bennett put their skills to the test at Pennyhill Park in the first of six sessions over the coming weeks set to involve Hartpury players.
This is the third season that Hartpury have been invited to train with England ahead of the Six Nations competition. They have also helped out before the Old Mutual Wealth Series as England went on to claim wins over South Africa, Fiji and Australia to end 2016 unbeaten.
Those who are lucky enough to come face to face with England’s finest over the course of the tournament will line up alongside or against a couple of familiar faces with ex-Hartpury boys Jonny May and Ellis Genge in Jones’ squad. Gloucester Rugby winger Jonny May, graduated from Hartpury University Centre with an Honours degree in Sports Business Management while Leicester Tigers’ man Genge is once again included following his quick rise since leaving the college.
There will undoubtedly be players among the current Hartpury crop eyeing senior international honours in the not too distant future too and they will spend around an hour and half training with Eddie Jones’ squad.
Hartpury Principal, Russell Marchant, said: "We are thrilled to have been invited back to train with England again, particularly with two of our own former students having been named in the squad.
"Training alongside the senior squad will be inspirational for our players and I’m sure that we’ll see more Hartpury players follow in the footsteps of Jonny and Ellis by running out for England in the future.
“This opportunity is a reflection of the exceptional reputation Hartpury has as a hotbed for rugby talent and we’re very proud to boast players of a high enough calibre to provide England with a good workout. I'm sure we will play a key role in helping them to fine-tune their preparations and it will undoubtedly be a great experience for our university players in their own development."
Hartpury have been asked to provide five players per week over the next six weeks as England step up their six nations preparations, with Hartpury’s Director of Rugby John Barnes looking to give the as many of the university side a run out against the best that English rugby has to offer.
Barnes said: “This is an incredible opportunity for the players and one that can only benefit their development. We’re proud to have been asked back again to help Eddie and the team out with their preparations.
"It’s a busy time for Hartpury rugby at the moment and we will, of course, do everything we can to ensure all of our players maintain their best form and fitness. These run-outs against the England senior squad will provide excellent tests for us as we continue to challenge for honours in National League One and the BUCS leagues.”
Hartpury RFC and the university sides are currently having exceptional seasons in National League One and the BUCS leagues. The RFC are sitting at the league summit with an unblemished twenty victories from a possible twenty. The University Centre’s first and second teams also sit top of their respective leagues going into the final few fixtures.