Gloucester Rugby’s academy have already seen two of their peers shine on the senior stage this season and Peter Buxton admits the Premiership Rugby / RFU U18 Academy Finals Day at Allianz Park next week will be a chance for every player to grab his opportunity.
Ollie Thorley has already become Gloucester’s youngest-ever player in the professional era after making his LV= Cup debut at the age of 17 years and 59 days in November 2013.
The wing, still only 18, also scored a try against Ospreys just two weeks ago to further stake his claim as one to watch very closely over the next few years.
But he’s not the only Cherry & White youngster to earn the faith of the coaching team, with teenage centre Elliott Creed also making the bench for their last two LV= Cup outings.
And as they prepare to face another strong academy in the Exeter Chiefs on Monday, Buxton is urging the rest of his squad to follow in their footsteps.
“It’s been going really well for us, we had two players (Thorley and Creed) play for the first team in the LV= Cup, which is an eye-opener for them and a real success,” said senior academy manager Buxton.
“It’s obviously great for those guys because they realise how close they are to fulfilling their goals of playing in Gloucester’s first-team.
“Creedy and Olly will rightly come back and think that they are very close but they have still got a way to go, as the last couple of steps are the hardest ones.
“There’ll be little improvements they have to work on to step up, but as a group of guys there are five or six who are more than capable of doing the same thing.
“It’ll be a real benefit for the other players to see them and we’ve got three players in the England Under-18 squad now and probably two more if they weren’t injured. It’s been a successful season for them all.”
Gloucester and Chiefs will be battling it out at Allianz Park after finishing third in the North and South Conference respectively.
They were only one point away from leapfrogging Leicester Tigers but Buxton says they couldn’t have wished for a more enticing game than the chance to reignite their South West rivalry with Chiefs.
“We’ve played well and went to Leicester last time out and unfortunately lost, we had a smaller squad down there,” added Buxton.
“But the boys have improved steadily game by game and are getting better and better. On merit we probably deserved a little bit better than finishing third in the group but all credit to Northampton and Leicester, they finished the last two games a little better than we did.
“It’ll be a great occasion for the players, it’s a Finals day against the Exeter Chiefs who have also got a very good academy.
“It’s a South West Derby and that’s another big part of it for them, an away trip to Allianz Park. It’s also good for their development to prepare for big games in big stadiums.
“All of those will be big positives for them, the guys enjoyed the experience last year and I think they will this year as well.”
The Premiership Rugby / RFU U18 Academy Finals Day will take place on Monday, 16 February at Allianz Park. Entry is free with gates opening at 11.30am with the first game kicking off at 1pm.