SEVEN gifted Ripon Grammar School rugby players have been talent-spotted by Yorkshire's premier professional club.
The students, aged 14 to 18, have won sought-after places in the Yorkshire Carnegie Academy, which seeks out the most talented young players in the county and is considered a stepping stone to playing at the highest levels.
With so many gifted players in their current school teams, the boys are now hopeful Ripon Grammar School, which has a regional reputation for rugby, will triumph once again in the upcoming Yorkshire Cup, having won the coveted trophy three times in recent years.
Rising star and captain of the school’s 1st XV squad Ted Wainwright was part of the England U17s squad last year, while five of the boys also represent Yorkshire.
Ted, who is on the Elite Yorkshire Carnegie programme, which develops top players with a view to going on to play in the premiership and for their country, found his passion for rugby from the age of five.
“I love the camaraderie and the team spirit, the physicality of the game and the way you use your brain to play tactics,” he explained.
The 18-year-old boarding student, from Helmsley, who hopes to study economics at Durham University, has a punishing schedule, training in Leeds for three hours twice a week, with matches on Friday nights and at weekends.
“I’ve had to make sacrifices and at the moment I’m balancing my sport with my studies as it’s important I make an effort with that too.” Unsure of where his rugby may take him in future, he says: “I want to get my degree first, then see what happens after that.”
The school’s director of sport Adam Milner commented: “Ted is one of the most outstanding and consistent performers the school may ever see. It has been a privilege to see his development as both a rugby player and a young man.”
Ted’s team-mate Ollie Williams, 18, from Ripon, who represents his county, has also been selected for the Yorkshire Carnegie Academy, which has seen some of the country’s most talented players emerge through its system.
A first-time Carnegie recruit, Ollie underwent a series of trials over several months before learning he had been picked for the elite 25-strong squad.
He’s now looking forward to working with the club’s experienced and highly qualified coaching team, with access to some of the best facilities in the country: “I wasn’t expecting it, this is the first year I’ve been picked and it’s a huge honour, I’m very proud,” he said.
Ted and Ollie were both selected to represent Yorkshire Carnegie in the premiership Academy League’s first game of the season at Headingley: “Oliver has made rapid progress over the last year and thoroughly deserved his place,” said Mr Milner.
Others who have won selections with the Yorkshire Carnegie Junior Academy are RGS fourth former Will Groves and four fifth formers, Harry Williams, Oscar Lees, Toby Boyce and Will Barrett, who have also been picked to represent Yorkshire this season.
Mr Milner added: “We are extremely pleased for the boys, they put in a huge amount of hard work and their selection to the county squads are just rewards. They all have exciting opportunities ahead of them and I have no doubt they will succeed both on and off the rugby field.”
Oscar, 15, from Ripon, who has been playing rugby for five years, said he was thrilled to be selected for both Yorkshire and Carnegie but a little nervous: “The ability level at our age is quite high, so there are a lot of good players. But I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Will Barrett, 16, from Pateley Bridge, who has been playing since he was six, agreed: “We all started together in first year and have progressed, a lot of players have developed and come on so our school team, which now has four Carnegie players in it, is definitely getting better and better.”
“We think we’re in with a really good chance in the Yorkshire Cup this year,” added Oscar.
Ted, who has been in the winning RGS Yorkshire Cup teams in his first, fourth and lower sixth years added: “We have a really good team this year, very strong. So we’re hoping this will be our fourth year to bring the cup home to Ripon.”
Photo caption: (l-r) Will Barrett, Oscar Lees, Ollie Williams, Ted Wainwright, Toby Boyce, Harry Williams and Will Groves