Harry eyes place in national squad

Harry Thompson
Harry Thompson

A MORPETH teenager is kicking his way to a bright sporting future after being given a chance to represent his country.

Harry Thompson, along with Tom Davidson, Elliott Beattie and Jiri Lacina from the Czech Republic, have been selected for the British Colleges Sport (BCS) North of England rugby union squad after coming through a testing series of regional trials.

The four lads, who are enrolled on academic courses at Gateshead College and part of the Academy of Sport’s Rugby Performance Centre, will now compete in a second round of trials, which includes a couple of inter-regional matches, this month.

If successful, they will be in the running to represent the full England side, which is scheduled to play its first warm-up game against Devon Under 20s in late January.

Harry, who plays in the scrum-half position for Morpeth RFC Colts, said: “It’s a great boost to be selected for the North of England squad and I’d be thrilled to be called up to the national squad.

“I’ve always had an interest in rugby and I enjoy the physical side of the game. Through my college course (sports and exercise science), I have also acquired general life skills, such as teamwork, organisation and tactical awareness, which I can now apply in a variety of different career roles.

“Gateshead College has an excellent reputation for sports education and that’s what persuaded me to study there.”

The 16-year-old will be joined in the next stage by props Tom, 17, who plays at Alnwick RFC, and Elliott, 16, who plays for Blaydon RFC, as well as Jiri, 18, who plays centre and has starred for the Czech Republic Under 19s.

Liam Gumbrill, who joined Gateshead College as a rugby coach earlier this year and has been asked to coach the North of England squad at the trials, said: “These four lads have shown great endeavour and skill to be selected for the BCS North of England squad.

“They have taken advantage of our highly-regarded Rugby Performance Centre at the Academy of Sport, which gives our students every chance of fulfilling their potential.”

Ian McCombes, manager of the England Colleges rugby team and regional coordinator at BCS, added: “The North trial was the second stage of the process to select the squad to represent England Colleges Rugby in a warm-up game against Devon Under 20s before tackling the Welsh Charitables and the Irish Exiles.

“I was fortunate to be present at the North trial and it is obvious that there are some very good players being developed in colleges such as Gateshead.

“The next step for the players will be to represent the North in two games at Telford against the Midlands and South East/London/East region, from which a final squad will be chosen to play against Devon.

“The system provides college students with the opportunity to play representative rugby and, in recent years, we have seen some of the England Colleges’ players, such as Jamie George at Saracens and the Wales and Lions player Alex Cuthbert, progress on to greater things.”

Mr Gumbrill is running a rugby union taster day on Monday, February 17, for new students next year. For more information, telephone 0191 4902447 or email liam.gumbrill@gateshead.ac.uk

The Rugby Performance Centre was set up to help young players develop their talent and as well as high-quality coaching, it provides strength and conditioning support. It is open to any student to join, regardless of whether or not they are studying for a sport qualification.