Warriors Academy youngster Will Butler has certainly had a year to remember.
In June, the 18-year-old completed his A levels at Hereford Cathedral School, where he picked up an A* in Economics and an A in both PE and Biology.
Upon finishing his studies, Butler went straight into the Warriors Academy for an intense summer of training ahead of the 2016/17 season.
And following several promising displays for Worcester Cavaliers in September and October, Butler was handed his Warriors debut at the weekend – albeit a long way from home – in Moscow.
His first test as a Warriors player was against a hugely powerful Enisei-STM side who showed last season that they are not to be taken lightly after beating Newcastle Falcons and Brive in Europe.
And after learning a few days before the game that he would be making his Club debut, the teenager admitted he was over the moon to get the nod for his Warriors bow.
He said: “I was delighted and obviously very excited. Moscow is one of the biggest cities in the world and to get to represent Warriors is a dream come true.”
Butler played 46 minutes of the clash, where he fronted up against the like of experienced Georgia international Davit Kacharava, who has 95 caps for his country.
And although the result wasn’t the one he had hoped for, Butler insists the young side will have learnt from their Russian experience.
He explained: “I thought I did quite well against their physical lads. We were challenged hard and as a backline we showed up.
“In attack we didn’t execute as well as we’d have liked but with the first try we manipulated their defence quite nicely and we could’ve done with some more of that.
“I haven’t played in that environment before. The weather is always a challenge and it played into their hands a bit more than ours but we didn’t adapt quick enough so it’s another thing we can learn from and gain experience.”
Five players made their debuts in Russia and Butler paid tribute to the Club who have given him opportunities as he’s made his way up the age-groups.
He continued: “The Club gives opportunities and five or six of us were given the chance to show what we could do on the big stage at the weekend.
“Perry Humphreys and Jamie Shillcock have done a great job recently in the first-team and it’s nice to be part of a young group that is getting opportunities.
“We learn together with the senior players, even if it’s just the intricate parts of the game and it’s great being around these guys every week and learning new things.”
Butler also paid tribute to the Warriors coaching staff, in particular Sam Vesty, who has helped his development over the past few years.
He admitted: “Sam has been a big role model and helped me out tremendously over the past few years while Gordon Ross has also been great.
“Max Stelling is a good guy to learn off too, especially in how to be a professional in the game and how to improve yourself on the pitch.”
Butler went on to praise the support and resource within Warriors’ Junior Academy Centres which has helped him make it to where he is today.
He commented: “All the equipment and resource the Club provides at the centres is great. I had nutrition and strength and conditioning support at school every Wednesday and Friday so having that constant contact with the Warriors team helped prepare me for the Academy.
“I’ve learnt little bits that matter now we’re on the big stage and that I didn’t really need to know at school.
“The margins are much smaller. Recovery is a big thing I didn’t tap into before I started full-time rugby and these are all things I learnt from having that contact within my Junior Academy Centre at Hereford.”
There was more good news for Butler last week as he was called up to England’s Under 20 squad – alongside five other Warriors.
And Butler revealed: “I missed the phone call originally but it’s a nice feeling to be recognised at international level and I’m pleased for the other boys too.
“It bodes well for the future of the Club and will be great for us to get experience playing around the world against different brands of rugby.
“I’m looking forward to the Six Nations and hopefully I’ll be able to show what I can do on the international stage later this season.”
Warriors face Brive at Sixways this Saturday and Butler expects a different kind of test for the young outfit.
He added: “It will be a bit less physical against Brive and they’ll want to play the ball a bit more and move it out wide which will be a different test to last weekend.
“But we want to get our stuff on the pitch and that’s where we can thrive as we have a good attack so it’ll be an exciting game.”