Four North Midlands players have been included in the Midlands Under-18s squad for a training session at Leicester Grammar School on Sunday January 27.
Hooker Daniel Barwood (Birmingham Moseley and Greater Birmingham), flanker Jack Goodwin (Hartpury College, Worcester Warriors and Herefordshire) and wings Brandon Turner (Ellesmere College and Shropshire) and George Sweetman (Hereford Cathedral School and Herefordshire) all impressed playing for North Midlands in their programme of county matches at three Super Sunday tournaments each of which involved all six Midlands counties.
They are among 39 players who have been invited to Sunday’s session. The squad will be reduced to 30, then 23 after further training sessions during February ahead of the England Counties Under-18s Development Festival from February 22 to 24.
North Midlands Under-18s beat Cheshire 27-24 at Ellesmere College in a warm-up match then suffered narrow defeats to East Midlands (23-19) at Coalville and Staffordshire (21-17) at Welbeck Defence College before they ended their campaign on a high with a 22-19 victory over Warwickshire in the final Super Sunday at Loughborough University.
Dale Smallman, the former Bridgnorth director of rugby, took charge of the side for the first time and made increased use of video clips to help prepare the squad for training sessions and to review matches.
“With county rugby you get a minimal amount of contact time with the players so we used videocasts to technical skills and tactics so that when they came to training sessions they could hit the ground running,” Smallman said.
“It worked really well and really bore fruit for the players in the Warwickshire match. As individuals and as a group it was pleasing to see how they progressed.”
After the Warwickshire match John Griffiths, the former Moseley and Birmingham prop and a member of the North Midlands squad that won the County Championship for the only time in the county’s history in 1977, presented Under-18s captain Conor Barker of Bridgnorth and Shropshire with his shirt.
“North Midlands is a big county but we do produce some very good players and we are working hard to develop a Club North Midlands mentality,” Smallman said.
“There is a great pride in playing county rugby and we thought asking John, who was involved when we won the County Championship for the only time, to present Conor with his shirt.
“John is also closely involved with North Midlands Under-20s and the Warwickshire match was an opportunity for him to see players who might be stepping up to Under-20s county rugby next season.”