Three of Worcester’s rising stars will be working hard for a ticket to Belfast in the coming seven weeks.
Matt Cox, Greg King and Johnny Arr have that time to make the England U19 team for the match against Wales U19 in Aberavon on Friday, March 2 – with a place in England’s squad for April’s World Championships in Northern Ireland the ultimate prize if they perform.
Of the three, blindside flanker Matt had the biggest opportunity to shine in the U19 team’s tight win over Italy, last week.
The 18-year-old Warriors starlet did his club proud by playing a huge part in the 18-11 victory, yet focused on the improvements he has to make to his game when he returned to Sixways on Monday.
He was typically down-to-earth about his display, which came only six weeks after he feared, momentarily, that his season might be over after injuring his shoulder in the A team’s stunning win at Leicester.
“I was hoping to take a lot of carries, clear out a lot of rucks, make sure I did all my lineout parts right and produce cover tackles,” he said of his expectations of the Sunbury match.
His lack of match fitness meant he’d been told to run his tank dry before coming off. In the event, he lasted 62 minutes before being replaced, during which time his part in England’s dominant back row had raised eyebrows, including a tracking run and tackle that prevented the feisty Italians scoring a crucial try.
“My shoulder was still playing up the week before, and I wasn’t very happy with my match fitness, so I was doing some extra fitness stuff at nights at the England hotel,” added Matt, a former comprehensive student, whose rugby journey started as a teenager at Woodrush Rugby Club and then moved through the Worcestershire U18, North Midlands and Midlands squads before he won England U18 honours and a solitary U19 cap last season.
“I held out not too bad. Could be a lot better, more round the park, but that’s just general match fitness. I’m happy, but I know there’s a lot more to be worked on.”
The U19s’ next outing is in Wales is followed by a meeting with France on Saturday, March 24, at Henley (4pm).
Team mates Greg King and Johnny Arr will be hoping to join him on the pitch in South Wales.
The former had just 10 minutes against the Italians, and wants more game time on March 2, with his sights also set firmly on the World Championships.
“I want to be able to make an impact in the next two games, because I want to secure a place in the squad for Belfast.”
Unlucky scrum-half Arr was one of England’s four unused replacements, so the 18-year-old Royal Grammar School, Worcester, student was unable to show the fruits of his development in the Warriors Academy and A League team this season.