27 May 2022
London Irish Academy graduates Tom Pearson and Ollie Hassell-Collins have been included in the Rugby Players Association’s maiden Under-23 Team of the Season.
The pair’s inclusion was confirmed at the Eterlast RPA Awards ceremony held in London on Wednesday evening.
The RPA began a new '15 Under-23' initiative at the beginning of the 2021/22 season in order to underscore six junior members' efforts throughout the campaign, nominating a most valuable player (MVP) each month as voted for by fans.
All nominees and winners were put on the RPA long shortlist for the final “15 Under 23” which was selected by the RPA’s Players Board 2021/22, with fans also getting the opportunity to vote for their ultimate XV.
In his first season in green, Pearson has excelled in the back-row after joining the Senior Academy in the summer, making 18 first-team appearances overall in his first term in west London.
He was awarded the ‘Player of the Match’ accolade in his debut against Exeter Chiefs, a match that he made a round-high 25 tackles, and has recently been included in his second England training squad in 2022.
Hassell-Collins too earned his first England training camp berth this term during the 2022 Guinness Six Nations, taking to the field 26 times for London Irish in 2021/22.
The 23-year-old has 11 tries in all competitions this year, gaining 1,760 metres, beating 63 defenders and leads the Gallagher Premiership in clean breaks (22) as it stands.
Henry Arundell was also nominated for the MPH Sports Young Player of the Year on the night, who spoke of his appreciation for the Club and players and that it was an “honour” to be nominated, with Leicester Tigers’ Freddie Steward consequently crowned with the award alongside the England Men's Player of the Year in association with esya.
Arundell was nominated for the RPA 15 Under-23 MVP award in April, with fellow Exiles Pearson, Hassell-Collins and Chunya Munga, also nominated in November, December and March respectively.
Former Exile Andrew Fenby was the joint recipient of the RPA Blyth Spirit Award in association with @hastaWorld alongside Kevin Sinfield OBE of Leicester Tigers.
Congratulations to Tom, Ollie, Henry, Chunya and Andrew!
Full Rugby Players Association’s Under-23 Team of the Season:
15 Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers), 14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby), 13. Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints), 12 Dan Kelly (Leicester Tigers), 11 Ollie Hassell-Colins (London Irish), 10 Marcus Smith (Harlequins), 9 Harry Randall (Bristol Bears); 1 Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks), 2 Nic Dolly (Leicester Tigers), 3 Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), 4 Nick Isiekwe (Saracens), 5 Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers), 6 Ben Earl (Saracens), 7 Tom Pearson (London Irish), 8 Fitz Harding (Bristol Bears).