Last week, we continued this series by looking at seven forwards – Joe Launchbury, Charlie Matthews, Sam Twomey, Matt Everard, Sam Jones, Matt Kvesic and captain Alex Grey [see here] – in the second instalment of this series [see here for the first article]. Each of these players were a part of England’s successful 2011 Junior World Championship campaign, where the boys in white shirts finished second to New Zealand. Now, 4 years later, surrounded by preparations for this year’s home Senior world cup, we shall continue with the first 5 backs, looking at how far they have each come since.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW: ENGLAND’S 2011 JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SQUAD
Today we look at Chris Cook, Dan Robson, Owen Farrell, George Ford and Guy Armitage
Chris Cook (Bath Rugby)
Having spent his Junior World Cup year in the Bath Academy, Cook debuted in the Premiership against Sale Sharks during the 2013-14 season. He held a regular ‘A’ team place for the remainder of that year, helping Bath United to lift the Aviva A League title, before he was loaned to London Welsh to enjoy promotion from the Championship at the Kassam. He was re-signed for Bath for the 2014-15 season, earning his first start during the second match of the season, where he also scored his first Premiership try within the first two minutes. Having started 16 of Bath’s games this season, he signed a contract extension in February of this year to stay at the Rec for the foreseeable future, and holds 26 Bath caps to date.
Dan Robson (Gloucester)
Robson was first featured in the Gloucester senior squad during the 2011 season, where he experimented between the half back positions, until he became a regular feature at scrum half in the 2012-13 season, where the number nine shirt was shared between him and teammate Jimmy Cowan. That year, he was voted Season Ticket Holders’ Young Player of the Season. A similarly impressive performance the next year earned him his first England callup, and he made his England Saxons debut in January 2014, against Scotland. He was picked for the England Summer Training Squad later that year and played in the non-capped friendly against the Barbarians at Twickenham. In the Premiership, after 88 caps at the cherry and whites, it was announced in January of this year that Robson would leave Gloucester for Wasps on a long-term deal.
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
Fly Half / Centre
The son of ex England Rugby Union and League great Andy Farrell, Owen was always expected to perform, and he has not disappointed. He originally held the record for the youngest player ever to appear in English professional Rugby Union, after playing for Saracens at the tender age of 17 years and 11 days, but this was beaten in 2009 by his JWC teammate George Ford. Having started his professional career at Allianz Park, he was signed to Bedford Blues on loan for the 2010-11 season; a move that was quickly cut short, and he proved pivotal for Sarries for the remainder of the season, including in the Premiership Final where he had a personal haul of 17 points to help his side defeat defending champions Leicester Tigers. He was man of the match when Saracens hoisted the trophy for the second time this year, when they beat Bath 28-16 – 18 points of which were contributed by Farrell. Today, he has amassed 732 points in 73 Premiership matches for Saracens, and has 111 caps for the London club. His first England call up came for the 2012 Six Nations, where he debuted against Scotland at inside centre. Two matches later, he started at fly half against Wales due to Charlie Hodgson’s injury, and finished the competition with a 63 point haul from his 5 games. He later toured South Africa with the squad, scoring 18 points in his 3 appearances, and played in the Autumn Test series. At the end of the season, he received a nomination for IRB player of the year. He played in the Six Nations Campaign in 2013, before he was named part of the British and Irish Lions squad for the tour to Australia. He later re-joined England for the 2013 Autumn Internationals. Injury prevented Farrell from the 2015 Six Nations campaign, but he has since recovered and has been selected for England’s final 31 man squad for this October’s World Cup, battling against former teammate George Ford for the Number 10 jersey and looking to gain his 30th international cap.
George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
Ford took the title of youngest player to make his professional debut in England from teammate Owen Farrell at the tender age of 16 years and 237 days old. The year later saw his Premiership debut, with his first start following in September 2011. That year, Ford continued to break records, becoming the first Englishman, and the youngest nominee, to claim the IRB Young Player of the Year Award. He was loaned to Leeds Carnegie for a short period before returning for Leicester’s Heineken Cup draw against Aironi. He made his England Saxons debut against Ireland in January 2013, and his first test appearance came against Walees at Twickenham in March 2014. Having won 41 caps, and scored 275 points for the Tigers, as well as lifting both the LV=Cup and Premiership Trophy, Ford joined Bath in the Summer of 2013-14. His first season at Bath was highly praised as he was awarded the Gilbert Golden Boot and LV= Young Player of the Year at the end of the season. He made his England senior debut the same year, during the 2014 Six Nations. He was picked for the same competition the following year, where he scored the most points (75), and was awarded the Aviva Premiership Player of the Season Award. He now sits in England’s Rugby World Cup squad, and he starts this weekend in the warm up match against Ireland. He also has 63 premiership caps to his name, with a total of 632 points.
Guy Armitage (London Irish)
The younger brother of England players Delon and Steffon Armitage, Guy followed the family suit by joining the London Irish Academy in 2010. During the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, Armitage spent time on loan with both London Welsh and London Scottish, earning vital experience in his 6 Championship games, alongside 8 appearances for the exiles. At the end of the 2011-12 season, he decided to follow his brothers to France, signing for Toulon, but returned only six months later on loan after he was not picked for the Southern French club. 21 caps soon followed along with a new contract in February 2013, bringing him up to 42 appearances and 7 tries for the exiles. He later rejoined London Welsh on loan in March 2015 until the end of the season following a nagging injury, which had limited his game time at the Madjeski.
Next time, in the final instalment, we look at the remaining 6 squad members: Elliot Daly, Ryan Mills, Jonathan Joseph, Andy Short, Christian Wade and Marland Yarde