Last week, former Wasps flyhalf Charlie Atkinson put pen to paper and signed a new long-term deal with top-flight rivals, and last year’s Premiership winners, Leicester Tigers. He is still yet to play his first game for Steve Borthwick’s side but at just 21 years old, the road ahead looks very bright for Atkinson now that he wears the infamous green and red.
Charlie Atkinson signed for Wasps in 2020 and has since played 39 games for the Coventry side. The young flyhalf excels with the ball in hand. He takes the ball to the line very well, allowing his teammates to run off of him and release the ball once he is already at the gain line. This builds momentum and gets his side moving up the pitch at pace. Although a very handy playmaker, Atkinson also loves to have a go himself and is never afraid to take the ball into contact as a 10 and often breaks the line with explosive acceleration and fast footwork. This provides layers of attack, giving the team different options and keeping the opposition guessing where they might strike from.
Atkinson is also very strong under the high ball, as he can play both flyhalf and fullback. At 6ft and almost 90kg, he can hold his own in both positions and is known for his commitment to making dominant tackles and disrupting the ball in defence. His involvement as a fullback in professional rugby has also helped him to read the game cleverly and choose when to kick into space to gain pitch advantages. Charlie Atkinson is also left-footed, which gives any team an added angle of attack, for both goal-kicking and open play.
Charlie Atkinson: One to follow
The Oxford-born man played twice for England U18 and four times for England U20s, which included a Grand Slam U20 Six Nations win in 2021, as well as being a part of Eddie Jones’ shadow squad for the full squad campaign. He could make his Leicester debut this weekend as they welcome an Italian select XV side to Welford Road. Atkinson has been named on the bench and could come on to pull some strings in a very strong backline for a Tigers side that includes Anthony Watson, Matt Scott and Nemani Nadolo. Leicester’s involvement in the European Champions Cup this season also means they have an extremely packed and testing schedule, with no break in regular games until the middle of January. The next few months will provide the perfect platform for Charlie Atkinson to break into the first team at the 11-time Premiership champions and show just what he can do.
Potential to Grow
While the skills and positive traits that Charlie Atkinson posses are there to see and have been made clear from his time at Wasps, there is also a lot of room for growth in the young man’s game and he is right where he needs to be in his career at the moment to unlock his true potential.
Leicester Tigers, aside from its prestigious history and current strength that the club holds, might be the perfect place for a young flyhalf to grow, thanks to those around him. Charlie Atkinson joins a team full of world-class, experienced players, especially in the 10 position. Three big role models now stand before him in the shape of Handre Pollard, Jimmy Gopperth and Freddie Burn, each of which can have a different positive effect on Atkinson in a unique way. Having three legends of the game to look up to, one of which is a World Cup-winning flyhalf will be a huge boost to Atkinson’s development as both a player and a man.
Additionally, for the Autumn Nations series this year, Atkinson is one of the England squad’s apprentice players, meaning he is already on Eddie Jones’ radar for a full international cap. If the flyhalves at the Tigers weren’t enough inspiration for Atkinson, he now has Owen Farrell and Marcus Smith to learn from too. Even without game time, simply being in and around an England rugby camp that is preparing for games against teams such as New Zealand and South Africa can be the big stepping stone that a player needs to reach the next level of his game.
Much like his flyhalf counterpart Fin Smith, who was forced to swap Worcester Warriors for Northampton Saints, Charlie Atkinson will be motivated following the demise of his first professional rugby club and will be keen to prove his worth. With plenty of talent already in store, we could soon be seeing a rapid rise to the top of the game for the Leicester new boy.
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