Bath Rugby Academy manager Andy Rock believes that the opportunities his young players experienced with their nations last season will only help progress their development further.
Archie Griffin (Wales U18), Rhys Davies (Wales U20), Sam Elrick (Italy U20), Tom Jeanes and Tom de Glanville (both England U18) are just a handful of Academy players who’ve represented their countries this year, as they continue their steady rise in the sport.
Add that to the recent experiences in France for Wil Partington and Jack Edmondson with England Students, and Nahum Merigan, Orlando Bailey and John Stewart at England U17 training camps.
Rock wants his players to enjoy and celebrate an international call-up, but he also believes that they should maximise the opportunities it presents to help develop their game.
“It’s important the players feel a sense of pride when invited to these camps and into national squads. It’s also crucial that they go feeling both confident and focused upon getting the most out of the experience, and understand they can use it as a platform to improve,” he begins.
“We’ve had players called up to Wales, Italy and England and all their experiences will have been different.
“They would have been exposed to different cultures, different philosophies and different coaching methods, all of which helps to broaden their horizons and make them think about the game differently.
“They might play a Test match for 80 minutes at the end of the week, which is what we all tend to focus on, but there are another 10,000 minutes during each week where they can be learning and making sense of the environments they are in.
“That’s what we try to highlight to our guys – playing for your country is a huge honour, but history would tell us that at youth level it means very little unless it’s used as a platform to improve. They are great experiences - so both enjoy and use them to the fullest.”
One player that really captured what Rock is conveying was Tom de Glanville, who travelled to South Africa with the England U18s last August.
“Looking back at Tom’s experience in South Africa, he could have just gone out there and played for England and enjoyed it as an achievement,” Rock says.
“Tom’s a thinking player, and a really perceptive young man thankfully, and it was great to sit down with him afterwards and review what he enjoyed while he was out there. That tour had a profound effect on his interest in the defensive side of the game, probably because it was the first time he was surrounded by peers who were really passionate about defending and who worked on it as much as Tom does his attack.
“Tom is definitely an attack-minded player but he came back to Bath after spending time with players who were equally as good on the other side of the ball. He saw what it would mean to be a great defender as a young player and it’s had a massive effect on his desire to learn that part of the game.”