This year’s U16 Wellington Festival is underway, with London Irish winning all three of their opening games against Bristol, Gloucester and Harlequins as Exiles academy manager Patrick O’Grady casts an eye over his current crop of players.
The week-long programme, which is held annually at Wellington College, Berkshire aims to develop both academy players and coaches on and off the field in a variety of areas.
As well as playing matches players have also been given education and guidance in nutrition, anti-doping and professional sports pressures. England Sevens head coach Simon Amor and professional referee Wayne Barnes have also been on hand to talk to the youngsters during the week.
“The Wellington Festival is a fantastic opportunity for the boys to develop not only as rugby players, but as people too,” said London Irish academy manager O’Grady.
“The main thing that we as coaches get out of it, is getting to know the boys on our programme. Only getting to see the lads once a week on a Monday evening for an hour of gym and an hour of rugby limits us to actually getting to know them as a person, so to spend a whole week together is great.”
London Irish have a stellar reputation of producing talented players through their successful academy, underlined by the presence of five Exiles in this year’s England Under-20 squad.
Explaining the process for bringing players to London Irish’s academy, O’Grady added: “We cover Berkshire, Hampshire and recently last year we took on Middlesex as well. We go out and watch school and club games and we work in conjunction with the counties to pick up the best players in those areas and give them an opportunity on our pathway.
“It’s proving beneficial having Middlesex on board with the assistance of Bob Lawless, who has been fantastic to work with.”
BBC South will be showcasing the Wellington Festival during their sports bulletin from 6.30pm tonight.
14 Premiership Rugby Academies: Bath Rugby, Bristol Rugby, Exeter Chiefs, Gloucester Rugby, Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, Newcastle Falcons, Northampton Saints, Sale Sharks, Saracens, Wasps, Worcester Warriors, Yorkshire Carnegie.
London Irish U16s: Monty Bradbury, Lukas Brooke, Finley Brown, Ryan Eastley, Rory Case, Ash Chirima, George Davis, William Double, Michael Dykes, Hector Elrington, William Field, Tarek Haffar, William Harding, Alex Harmes, Elijah Hiscock-Smith, Joshua Jones, William Joseph, Joe Keohane, Zion Marcolongo Lewis, Michael Mason, Niall McGann, Rory Morgan, Robbie Offord, Max Orr, Ethan Pawadyira, Marcus Rhodes, Taikiko Taukei, Nicholas Teague, Joseph Vajner, Alex Young
Tickets for London Irish v Exeter Chiefs are available from just £1 for under 13s throughout the stadium and £23 for adults by calling 0118 968 1016 (9am to 5pm) or online at www.lidirect.co.uk