Bristol Rugby is pleased to announce that seven members of the Academy U18 squad have signed professional terms ahead of the 2017/18 season.
Tom Rowland (BGS), James Dun (Millfield), Iwan Hughes, Dan Thurston (both SGS Filton), Matt Welsh, Nick Freeman and Tom Hargan (all Clifton College) have all been signed to the Senior Academy after impressing during their time at the club – with five of the seven having been in the Bristol set-up since the age of 15.
“This is one of the strongest age groups to have come through the Academy set-up for a long time and we are really excited to see how these guys adapt to and thrive in a professional environment,” Academy Manager Mike Hall told bristolrugby.co.uk.
“It’s the club’s largest ever intake of Academy-produced players and that’s a testament to the quality of the players and the coaching that they’re receiving, as well as the mindset that the Club is adopting under Pat Lam.
“This season, we’ve seen four players earn England U18 call-ups, with squad involvement at Wales U18s and England U17s level for our players, too. Coupled with the achievements of Ollie Dawe with England U20s, as well as Billy Searle and Sam Jeffries in the Aviva Premiership, it’s been a year of significant progress for us.
“Having a core of homegrown players is key to the success and sustainability of Bristol Rugby, so we’re really looking to the future with this crop of players.
“All these players have come through the Player Development Group (PDG) set-up and understand the Academy’s values. We’re delighted that their hard work is being rewarded and we’re confident they will push on under the tutelage of the Academy coaches.”
Rowland, a dynamic loosehead prop, made his senior debut for Bristol Rugby during the Anglo-Welsh Cup defeat to Exeter Chiefs in February. The Bristol Grammar School pupil, who converted from back row just two seasons ago, has represented England at U18 level this season.
The Millfield School second row has impressed in Bristol U18 and England colours this season. The rangy, formidable lock is a lineout specialist and will represent England U18 at the 2017 International Series in Wales during April.
An exciting and pacey back three player, England U18 international Hughes was in barnstorming form during the Aviva U18 League this season, scoring twice and assisting plenty more. The SGS Filton flyer is currently recovering from a broken leg sustained at the Rosslyn Park Sevens but is well on the road to recovery.
Wales U18 international Nick Freeman is a powerful hooker who has recently converted from the back-row. The skilful Clifton College pupil is also dynamic ball carrier and was another to impress during the Academy U18s’ 2016/17 campaign.
A hard working, strong ball carrier, Thurston has made huge improvements in his technical lineout skills over the course of the season. The SGS Filton back-row forward leads by example and has been in academy programme since the age of 15.
At 6’3” and 95kg, Welsh is an athletic and strong running centre with the ability to beat defenders one-on-one. The Clifton College pupil picks incisive lines from set piece and in open play and is a solid defender.
Hargan is a rangy back-three player, comfortable at full back and wing. Another product of Clifton College, Hargan is a dangerous counter-attacker and showcased his skills throughout the U18s Aviva Academy League campaign.