On Saturday, we started this series by looking at seven forwards – Ryan Bower, Will Collier, Henry Thomas, Mako Vunipola, Koree Britton, Rob Buchanan and Mikey Haywood [see here] – each of whom played a role in England’s second place finish at the 2011 Junior World Championship. 4 years on and in the midst of preparations for a home Senior world cup, we shall continue with the remaining 7 forwards, and look at their development since Italy 2011.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: England’s 2011 Junior World Championship Squad
Today we look at: Joe Launchbury, Charlie Matthews, Sam Twomey, Matt Everard, Sam Jones, Matt Kvesic and captain Alex Grey.
Joe Launchbury (London Wasps),
Launchbury is amongst the most well established of the 2011 squad, with 22 England caps to his name. In his first full season with the Senior team, he missed four months due to an ankle injury, yet still gained 15 caps and helped Wasps retain their Premiership status. In the following season, he made 19 appearances, and won both the November Player of the Month and Premiership Young Player of the Season, alongside nominations for the Rugby Players’ Association Players’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards, and he was longlisted for the ERC European Player of the Year. Internationally, he was first called up to the England Senior Squad for their 2013 tour of South Africa, playing in the uncapped game against the Barbarians but was prevented from more game time on tour due to injury.
He was included in the Saxons squad later that year but was called up to the England Training camp for the Autumn Internationals as injury cover for Tom Palmer. He came off the bench to earn his first cap against Fiji and started against both Australia and New Zealand, and was eventually voted Man of the Series. He started all of England’s Six Nations matches and was named England Player of the Year for 2012-13. He travelled with England for the tour of Argentina, and started for both the 2013 Autumn Internationals and 2014 six nations, and was selected for the summer tour to New Zealand. Since then, Launchbury spent 7 months on the sidelines after a neck injury in the October game against Harlequins, but returned to rugby in May this year. He is battling for the starting shirt alongside Courtney Lawes for the Rugby World Cup, despite competition from both Dave Attwood and Geoff Parling.
Charlie Matthews (Harlequins)
As Launchbury’s old partner in Sussex age-group rugby and at the Harlequins Academy, Matthews had a similarly promising start to his career. Post JWC 2011, however, he found himself with little game time at Quins, due to strong competition from established players Ollie Kohn, George Robson and Nick Kennedy. He was hit by injury in the 2011/12 season, which delayed his progress, and even when Kohn retired in 2013, Matthews was barred from the starting squad by a nagging shoulder problem which put him out for two months. Despite this; once recovered, he became integral to Quins’ 2013/14 campaign, and was called up to the England Saxons for the first time in 2014, gaining two caps in the process. To date, Matthews has 70 Quins caps to his name, though is only contracted until the end of the season.
Sam Twomey (Harlequins)
Since 2011, Twomey has become a regular in the Quins’ A-League side, whilst also gaining vital Premiership appearances along the way. He started in both the semi final and the final as a young Quins side took the LV=Cup 2013 title under the captaincy of Luke Wallace, and now has 29 caps for the West-London team. For the past couple of seasons, Twomey has had dual registration at London Scottish as a result of a tough challenge for a regular first team spot at Quins behind George Robson and Charlie Matthews, but is contracted at the Stoop until the end of the 2015/16 season.
Matt Everard (Leicester Tigers)
From Leicester, Everard spent a season with Wasps where he impressed enough to secure himself a two year long extension to the end of the 2013/14 season, gaining 12 Premiership caps in the process. However, with the likes of Guy Thompson, James Haskell and Sam Jones at openside at Wasps, Everard later signed for Nottingham for the 2014/15 season following a successful trial period with the club. In his first season in the Championship, he has played 15 games and scored 3 tries.
Sam Jones (London Wasps)
Jones started in the Wasps first team as early as the 2011/12 season, and despite injuries holding him back from his best form, he was awarded Wasps’ Young Player of the Year Award. The following season, he made 26 appearances and captained the side for the first time in the narrow defeat to Sale Sharks where he also scored a try, with his second campaign again earning him a nomination for the Young Player of the Season award. That year, he was also selected for the Barbarians squad as one of only two uncapped players. The 2013/14 season saw a further 26 appearances for the London Club and a third nomination for Young Player of the Year. 2014 also saw him complete his University degree in English from Kings. To date, he now has 94 caps for the London side, making him both an established first team member, and key to the long term future of the club.
Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)
Matt spent the 2011 season at Worcester where his 13 appearances aided them to promotion to the Premiership. He was awarded Young Player of the Year at the End of Season Awards and was offered a new contract with the club. He left Worcester after two seasons in the Premiership, having been named both Player of the Year and Players Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season. He joined Gloucester for the 2013-14 season on a two year contract, signing an extension until the end of the 2016-17 season in October 2014. In international colours, Kvesic was picked again for the 2012 Junior Rugby World Championship, however a shoulder injury prevented him from playing, although he earned his first Saxons call up in the same year. He was also picked for the Senior Squad for the 2013 Six Nations but was not used. He was included in the squad for the 2013 Tour of Argentina and started against the Barbarians, although he had to wait until the 2014 Summer tour to New Zealand to see any meaningful playing time, receiving a Man of the Match award in a victory over The Crusaders. He was also part of the 2014 Six Nations squad although once again did not play in any of the games (he does share a position with the current captain after all), and was selected in Lancaster’s initial World Cup Squad for this year’s home Championship, travelling to the training camp in Denver, but was recently released when the squad was trimmed.
Alex Gray (Newcastle Falcons) capt
Alex captained the 2011 side and was pivotal in the campaign. From his place at Newcastle Falcons in 2011, he appeared at No 8 for the next two seasons for London Irish, adding 18 Premiership games for the exiles to his tally. He was called up to the England Sevens Squad for the 2013-14 season, where he took the number 12 shirt, and has played in all past nine tournaments dating back to Tokyo in March 2014. His days in Fifteens has put him in good stead for his new career as a full time Sevens Players, and Gray was awarded the 2015 RPA Sevens Player of the Year in May.
Next time, we cast our eyes backwards, looking at the first five backs: Chris Cook, Dan Robson, Owen Farrell, George Ford and Guy Armitage