London Irish have been boosted by the news that seven players have extended their senior Academy contracts with the club.
Austin Hay, Jack Cooke, Tom Parton, Matt Williams, Joe Cokanasiga, Rory Brand and Isaac Curtis Harris, who all featured in the Exiles’ under-18s side that were crowned Premiership Rugby champions earlier this year, have agreed new deals.
Exiles Director of Rugby Nick Kennedy said: “We have a very talented pool of youngsters coming through the system at present and it’s very important that we keep hold of these players as we continue to build for the future.
“The new contracts are a reward for the hard work that each player has put in so far, but they know that they must continue to improve and take their opportunity when it presents itself.”
Joe Cokanasiga has penned a two-year deal with Irish and could be in line to start this Saturday’s British and Irish Cup opener against an Ospreys Premiership Select in Neath.
Standing at 6ft 4” and tipping the scales at 17 stone, the 18-year-old winger was part of the England Under-18s squad that toured South Africa in the summer.
Fijian-born, Cokanasiga moved to England aged three when his father joined the Army and has developed into one of the most promising wingers in the country.
Height: 6ft 4”
Birthplace: Suva (Fiji)
School: Bushey Academy
Local Club: Old Merchant Taylors
Like Joe Cokanasiga, back-row Isaac Curtis-Harris has signed a two-year contract with London Irish. Curtis-Harris, 19, began his rugby education with his hometown club Basingstoke RFC before joining the Exiles Academy in 2013.
Curtis-Harris who has represented England at under-17 level, has spent this season on loan at National League 1 outfit Esher. A rich rugby pedigree under his belt having attended Wellington College, Curtis-Harris has impressed whilst on loan at Esher, although a hamstring injury has cut short his stint with the Surrey-based club. Medical staff at the Exiles’ Hazelwood training base are currently keeping tabs on Curtis-Harris’ recovery and it is hoped he will make a return to full training in the New Year.
Weight: 15st 2lb
School: Fort Hill
Local Club: Basingstoke RFC
Rory Brand joined the Academy ahead of the 2015/16 season and after impressing during the Premiership Rugby Under-18s campaign, has secured a two-year deal with London Irish.
The Scotland-born scrum-half, mentored by former Exiles number-nine and current coach Paul Hodgson, has represented England at under-17 and under-18 level. Winning the Daily Mail Schools Trophy with Wellington School, the 18-year-old toured South Africa with England Under-18s in the summer.
Brand began his rugby journey with Super League side Salford Red Devils, before switching code to join Sale Sharks’ Academy. A scholarship at Wellington College soon followed thanks to the Jimmy Higham Bursary Fund which subsequently yielded a move to Irish.
Height: 5ft 6”
Weight: 12st 1lb
School: Wellington College
Local Club: Galashiels RFC
Oxford-born Tom Parton has put pen-to-paper on a one-year deal and follows in his father’s footsteps, who played professionally for Harlequins, Northampton and Coventry.
A product of Wellington College, the 18-year-old fly-half was named their Players’ Player of the Year last season during which time he was vice-captain. He was rewarded for his efforts with a call-up to the England Under-18s squad for their tour of South Africa.
Parton shared in a Rosslyn Park Schools National Sevens triumph as well as a Surrey Sevens success to underline his growth in the game.
Weight: 12st 9lb
Local Club: Henley RFC
Signing a one-year deal with London Irish, centre Matt Williams played a key role in helping Wellington College clinch the 2014/15 Daily Mail Schools Trophy with victory over Tonbridge. Williams, 18, has represented England at under-16, 17 and 18 level.
He recently completed his fifth and final year at Wellington studying for A-Levels in Maths, Economics and Chemistry and in August 2015 featured in the Exiles’ Singha Premiership Rugby Sevens campaign. Williams toured South Africa with England Under-18s in the summer.
Weight: 13st 8lb
Local Club: Windsor RFC
Jack Cooke has signed a three-year Academy plus contract. Studying Sport Management at St Mary’s University, Cooke is a product of the London Irish AASE Scheme where he was Players’ Player of the Season during the 2015/16 season.
Height: 6ft 3”
Weight: 14st 9lb
School: St Pauls
Local Club: Bracknell RFC
Like Jack Cooke, Austin Hay is a product of the club’s AASE Scheme and currently studies at Bath University. The talented prop, who has been part of the Berkshire County set-up, has attended the England Under-16 squad residential training camp.
Weight: 17st 7lb
School: St Pauls
Local Club: Windsor RFC