Fantastic four eye England success

Tom Davidson from Seahouses, Gateshead student Elliott Beattie, Jiri Lacina from the Czech Republic and Morpeth teenager Harry Thompson have been selected for the British Colleges Sport North of England squad after coming through a testing series of regional trials.

The four teenagers, who are enrolled on academic courses at Gateshead College and part of the Academy of Sport’s Rugby Performance Centre, will now compete in a second round of trials this month. If successful they will be in the running to represent the full England side, which is scheduled to play its first warm-up game against Devon under-20s in late January.

It’s a double success for Prague-born Jiri, who earlier this year was called up to the Czech Republic Under-19s side to play a tournament in Portugal.

The 18-year-old, who excels at the centre position, said: “It’s a great boost to be selected for the North of England squad and I’d be thrilled to be called up to the national squad. I’ve always had an interest in rugby and I enjoy the physical side of the game.

“Through my college course I have also acquired general life skills, such as teamwork, organisation and tactical awareness, which I can now apply in a variety of different career roles. Gateshead College has an excellent reputation for sports education and that’s what persuaded me to study there.”

Jiri’s enthusiasm for the sport is matched by 17-year-old Tom, a prop for Alnwick RFC. Harry, 16, is a scrum-half for Morpeth RFC while Elliott, also 16, plays for Blaydon RFC as a prop. Jiri is enrolled on the sports studies for team sports course at Gateshead College, while Harry is studying sports and exercise science. Tom has embarked on his A Levels and Elliott is studying coaching and progression in sport.

Liam Gumbrill, who joined Gateshead College as a rugby coach earlier this year and has been asked to coach the North of England squad at the trials, said: “These four lads have shown great endeavour and skill to be selected for the BCS North of England squad.

“They have taken advantage of our highly regarded Rugby Performance Centre at the Academy of Sport, which gives our students every chance of fulfilling their potential.”

Liam is looking to develop the Rugby Performance Centre and attract students to its rugby union academy.

The performance centre is open to any student to join regardless of whether or not they are studying for a sport qualification.  

Those who want to participate can enrol at the Academy of Sport’s Rugby Performance Centre where, alongside classroom study, they will receive high quality coaching, strength and conditioning support, nutritional advice, and access to physiotherapy and sports massage services.

It is hoped that the centre will help other students enjoy the success experienced by Jiri, Tom, Harry and Elliott.

Ian McCombes, manager of the England Colleges rugby team and regional coordinator at British Colleges Sport, added: “The North trial was the second stage of the process to select the squad to represent England Colleges Rugby in a warm-up game against Devon under-20s before tackling the Welsh Charitables and the Irish Exiles. I was fortunate to be present at the North trial and it is obvious that there are some very good players being developed in Colleges such as Gateshead.

“The next step for the players will be to represent the North in two games at Telford against the Midlands and South East/London/East region from which a final squad will be chosen to play against Devon. The system provides college students with the opportunity to play representative rugby and in recent years we have seen some of the England Colleges players, such as Jamie George at Saracen’s and the Wales and Lions player Alex Cuthbert, progress on to greater things.”

Liam Gumbrill is running a Rugby Union Taster Day on Monday 17th February 2014 for new students next year. For more information, contact Liam at, tel: 0191 490 2447.