Senior Academy forward Jack Edmondson is one of those rare people whose talents in the classroom crossed over onto the playing field – and there aren’t many better places at which to do that than Sherborne School.
Giving Hollywood the likes of Jeremy Irons and Hugh Bonneville is among the Dorset school’s many achievements, but it also boasts a fine rugby tradition that allowed towering tighthead Edmondson to flourish in both academia and the scrum. It was a comfortable enough balance for him that he was able to achieve A-Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Physics.
“I lived about ten minutes outside of Sherborne, so it was a natural progression for me to go there,” says Edmondson, who turns 19 in August. “I started playing rugby at the local club when I was eight. I didn’t really follow the game much, I just liked to play.”
Being a schools rugby player in the Dorset area meant encountering a number of players alongside whom he now trains at Farleigh House. A year above him at Sherborne was Will Homer, whilst nearby Bryanston School fielded Max Clark and Rory Jennings – all Bath Rugby Academy players who would go on to represent England U20s.
“Due to their close proximity, there’s a big rivalry between Sherborne and Bryanston,” explains Edmondson. “I played for two years in the first team. In lower sixth, we lost to a Bryanston team which included Max. Thankfully, we managed to win when I was in upper sixth.”
He talks fondly of his time at the school, including the positive influence of Sherborne’s Director of Rugby, David Muckalt. “The school loves its rugby and always gets big crowds out to watch the team play, which is a big boost as a player,” he says.
Now 6’3”, Edmondson insists he wasn’t always head and shoulders above his teammates. “I was quite young for my year, having an August birthday, but I grew eventually,” he laughs. In fact, it’s not so long ago that Edmondson was brought into the Junior Academy set-up. “I was 17 and the coaches invited me along one day to training; I played a few matches and it went from there.”
He describes being called up to the England U18s last year for the European Championships as something of a surprise, “because I wasn’t really expecting it. I got the phone call three days before the squad flew out to Toulouse. I really enjoyed it.”
In international terms, the learning curve continued with the invitation to be a travelling reserve for the U20s at this year’s Six Nations. “Hopefully I’ll get another shot this year,” Edmondson says. “I actually played for England Students against England U20 in a kind of warm-up match. I like to think it was a bit of a wake-up call for them, because they might have been expecting to breeze it and that wasn’t the case.”
Since he is now a student in Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath, Edmondson is part of the Club’s Scholarship Programme. “It keeps me quite busy,” he says, in a manner that suggests he wouldn’t have it any other way. “In pre-season, I’m here at Farleigh full time, but then when I’m back at uni I’m here for a couple of days a week.”
One of the many upsides of training at Farleigh for Edmondson is being around others in his position – namely Davey Wilson, Henry Thomas and Kane Palma-Newport. “Picking up tips from those guys is invaluable,” he says. “I’ve pretty much been a prop all my life. I had a brief period at second row, but I love being a tighthead. One of the things that didn’t suit me at second row was that you didn’t really get that impact at the scrum that you do in the front row. I really like the confrontation.”
This season, he will primarily play for the university team, but there is also scope for a loan spell elsewhere. Edmondson featured for Bath United in the Aviva A League last season, and is keen to sample more of that competition.
“It would be great to get a few more appearances this year,” he says, having been only 18 on making his debut in the Blue, Black and White of United in the 2015/16 season. “As a young prop, you need to be a lot more physically mature, and you have a lot of weight to put on.”
“Pre-season has been good so far, though. I prefer weights to the running, but I’m sure most props would say the same thing!”