London Irish has confirmed its senior Academy for the 2020/21 season.

The Premiership Rugby U18s league saw London Irish U18s share the title with Leicester Tigers U18s at Sixways back in February, to sign-off a successful season for this talented group of players.

Hooker Joe Vajner captained the U18 side, whilst also captaining Whitgift when representing his school. Joe was selected in the England U18 squad for matches earlier this year, but they were postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Wellington College pupil Lucas Brooke has had a successful season winning the Champions Trophy final with his school back in December and then picking up an U18 Academy league winners medal. Lucas played blindside flanker in the U18 Academy league side and has the ability to play in the front row at hooker.

Outside centre William Joseph played in all the U18 league matches crossing for several tries. The Millfield School pupil has been involved in the programme since the DPP age groups and last year toured South Africa with England U18s.

Four players from St Paul’s Catholic College have also been awarded contracts following their successful season with London Irish U18s, whilst also winning the AASE league with St Paul’s.

George Davis was an integral part of both his school and club team playing at openside flanker. George is another player with the ability to play at hooker.  

Loosehead prop Tarek Haffar is a big, strong ball carrier and showed this to good effect with the try he scored in the U18 league final. Tarek was also an England U18 representative on the tour to South Africa last summer.

Winger Michael Dykes has overcome an injury which limited his minutes in the Academy league this season and is now ready for pre-season. He was also selected for the tour of South Africa last summer with England U18s.

Alexander Harmes is a quick, elusive winger, who was at Cranleigh School before moving to St Paul’s for Sixth Form. Along with Michael, William, and Tarek, Alexander toured South Africa with England U18s last summer.

London Irish Academy Manager, Patrick O’Grady, has seen all seven players come through the club’s Developing Player Programme and work hard to earn their Academy contracts.

“I have followed the boys’ progression from the various DPP sites, through to the U16 & U18 Academy. Seeing them develop as players on the pitch has been fantastic, but also off the field, as they develop into the young men they have become, has been inspiring to witness.

“A lot of their development over the last few seasons is due to the hard work that James Lightfoot Brown and Jonathan Fisher have put in. The players have been very lucky to work with two outstanding coaches for the last three seasons and they have more to learn as they continue their development under these coaches in the senior Academy.

“I would also like to thank our medical staff and strength and conditioning coaches. A huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes to allow the boys to perform at this level and they now have good foundations as the boys continue on their rugby journey.

“I look forward to working with these players moving forward and I have no doubt they will grasp the opportunity that has been given to them in this full-time professional environment here at London Irish.

London Irish Senior Academy

Year 3 – Ben Atkins, Ben Donnell, Izzy Moore-Aiono, Caolan Englefield
Year 2 – Luke Green, Chunya Munga, Josh Smart, Phil Cokanasiga
Year 1 – Joe Vajner, Lucas Brooke, William Joseph, George Davis, Tarek Haffar, Michael Dykes, Alexander Harmes

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