Prop Marc Muhlemann, lock Ali Mane, back row forwards Ed Thompson and Joe Watkins, scrum-half Brendon Paulsen, full-back Cameron Hancock and wing Aaron Grandidier have been selected to train with the first team when pre-season gets under way at College Meadow on July 2nd.
In addition, four more - Zac Filmer, James Biss, Joe Leigh and Dillon Robertson - who are all in their last year at Eltham College and still eligible to play for the club’s Under-18s next season, have also been invited to join pre-season training before returning to play for the College 1st XV in their final year.
“There are some really talented players coming through our successful junior and academy set-up, which is a credit to everyone involved,” said OEs Director of Rugby Gavin Lach. “It’s so important for the long term future and success of this club that we continue to produce our own young talent and provide a pathway of progression for them into the senior section.
“Several of these guys played in one or two Extra 1st XV games at the end of last season and certainly did not look out of place. So I’m really excited to see what they can do training alongside the 1st team guys during pre-season.”
Lach continued: “It also further cements our relationship with Eltham College and demonstrates to young players with aspirations of playing a higher level of rugby once they leave school, that there is an opportunity to progress and develop at Elthamians RFC.
“I felt it was very important to invite four of this coming year’s school 1st XV along as well as the selected seven from last season’s 18-age group. The Eltham College boys will end their training with us the week before they return to school, as they will be playing school rugby until Christmas.”
The OEs DoR is looking to integrate more of last season’s Under-18 squad into the senior section throughout the season. “The door is certainly not shut for anyone,” he said. “This is the initial intake as we just cannot house them all in the 1st XV squad in one go. But we will monitor the situation throughout the season and look to drip-feed players into the higher teams in the senior section.
“With four senior teams all playing a good standard of competitive league rugby this season, this is the perfect opportunity to blood as many young players as possible. But it’s important we do it in stages to avoid throwing them all in at the deep end at the same time.
“We have created a ‘Development XV’ this season which in effect will sit as our 3rd XV this season. Neil Dewale, who played 200 games in National 1 and coached these boys at Under-18 level last year, has kindly agreed to captain the side. The Development XV has been placed in Kent Invicta One and will play against 2nd XV sides in Kent. It will give the boys a great introduction into men’s rugby.”
Updated 12:17 - 17 Jul 2018 by Jon Edwards