Dynamic duo make England squad

Tom Davidson from Seahouses and Jiri Lacina from the Czech Republic were selected for the British Colleges Sport England squad after coming through a testing series of regional trials.

The teenagers, who are enrolled on academic courses at Gateshead College and part of the Academy for Sport’s Rugby Performance Centre, are now in the running to represent the national side which is set to play its first warm-up game against Devon under 20s later this month. Games against the Welsh Charitables and the Irish Exiles will provide a further test of their credentials.

It’s a dream come true for 17-year-old Tom, who plays for Alnwick RFC as a prop and is currently studying for his A Levels at Gateshead College.

He said: “It was a great thrill just to make the North of England squad at the back end of last year. Jiri and I were put through our paces in a further trial and thankfully we managed to impress sufficiently to make the full England squad.

“Studying at Gateshead College and being part of the Academy for Sport has helped us to make this transition. The course hasn’t just honed my technical rugby skills; it has also given me general skills such as preparation, planning and leadership which I can now use to good effect on the pitch.”

Eighteen-year-old Jiri, who excels at centre position and is enrolled on the sports studies for team sports course at Gateshead College, added: “We have been taught how to look after ourselves properly. The strength and conditioning tutors at the college have given us vital lessons on sports science, health and nutrition – key ingredients that you must have if you are to succeed in the sport.”

Jiri and Tom have taken full advantage of the college’s Rugby Performance Centre, which is open to any student regardless of whether or not they are studying for a sports qualification. 

Liam Gumbrill, who joined the college as a rugby coach last year, is trying to develop the centre and attract a new influx of students to its rugby union academy.

He said: “The Rugby Performance Centre is an integral part of our Sports Academy and has given Tom and Jiri the chance to showcase their skills on the national stage. We want to ensure that it helps other students to fulfil their potential and perhaps go on to forge a worthwhile career in the sports industry.”

Students at the Rugby Performance Centre will receive high quality coaching, strength and conditioning support, nutritional advice, as well as access to physiotherapy and sports massage services.

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 liam.gumbrill@gateshead.ac.uk, tel: 0191 490 2447.