Around 15 months on from its launch, Chichester College’s rugby academy is continuing to thrive with players coming from clubs across the county (and beyond) – looking to develop their skills as well as gain an outstanding education.
As we head towards 2019, Steve Woolcombe, the college’s director of rugby, has been looking back at the past year.
Woolcombe said: “Rugby continues to flourish at Chichester College, we have a new team this year with mixed ability – from having never played to accomplished county players, and we continue to recruit new players each week who are studying here; many of whom have never considered playing rugby before.
“After our amazing first year, the coaching team and I recognised the huge task ahead to achieve the milestone year two goals of our three-year plan with the RFU. As an RFU Focus college, we have regular meetings with the England Colleges team who provide the infrastructure for us to build the Academy here and have been so supportive through year one.
“We opened our season with trials back in August. With 18 students from last year’s squad having completed their courses at the college, we were very much looking to build the squad from our new students.
“We had a great response, with 33 new students studying courses across the college - from Apprenticeships, A-Levels, Sports and a handful of very talented International students – turning out for us. There was a good mix of skill levels with the majority were completely new to the game.
“The squad this year includes players who have represented clubs across Hampshire and Sussex such as; Havant, Portsmouth, Fareham Heathens, Gosport, Pulborough, Horsham, Bognor and Worthing so taking all those players and putting them into a competitive team is a coach’s challenge but the diversity in the squad is fantastic.
“Our sponsors Lions Academy have provided all our new pitch furniture, which looks amazing with the backdrop of the Cathedral.
“For the New Year, we have yet more exciting projects in the pipeline, including a new duralock perimeter fence to surround and show off our excellent 1st XV pitch at the front of the college – this will provide a real spectacle as you near the entrance to Chichester College.
“We have also agreed a partnership with University of Chichester, where we have students who form part of our coaching team, developing their own skills under the tuition of our excellent coaches. They will add huge value to the academy squads.
“From January, we will also be visiting many of the schools across the local area to promote our academy and identify the potential talent for the future. Already we have seen a large number of students investing their future in our rugby programme and will be studying here from September 2019.
“Longer term, we are looking to develop a sports course specifically designed around academy players, which will provide them opportunity to pursue their rugby aspirations whilst receiving excellent study programmes here at the college.”