St George’s delight as Itoje, Farrell and Ford get England call
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A Harpenden school is at the forefront of restoring pride to English rugby after the nation’s disappointing showing in the Rugby World Cup.
England crashed out at the group stage in last year’s competition on home soil, prompting head coach Stuart Lancaster, and his coaching staff of Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell, to resign.
Eddie Jones was appointed as Lancaster’s successor in November and his first official act in the role was to name his Senior Elite Player squad yesterday (Wednesday).
And St George’s School, in Sun Lane, has three of its ex-pupils named.
Owen Farrell and George Ford remain in the 33-strong squad but joining them this year is Maro Itoje.
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The 21-year-old Saracens forward, who also played for Harpenden and OAs, has been in imperious form this season, picking up the player-of-the-month award for December.
And his inclusion, alongside that of Farrell and Ford, has delighted his former school.
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Head of boys PE at the school, Neil Harris, said: “Nothing against Owen and George but it’s Maro who we are most proud of due to the fact he hadn’t played rugby before he came here.
“He was a boarder and it is the tradition and ethos of the school that you play rugby.
“He always had physicallity but he’s worked really hard to get where he is.
“He used to do extra sessions with us and he would ask to work on parts of his game that needed it.
“He really does deserve every bit of praise he is getting.”
Mr Harris added that the success of the trio is acting as inspiration to the current crop of students.
He said: “They are big talking points. The children often ask me if I taught Owen.
“They look up to them and they talk about them. They are really strong role models.
“We sometimes forget we are quite a small school. We only have 80 to 90 on average per year but we keep managing to find these lads.”
Itoje’s selection wasn’t a surprise but some, like former England international and British Lion, Austin Healey, were predicting he could be named as captain.
Jones however has delayed that announcement for the time being.
He said: “We need to have a captain , a leader, and I am pretty sure who that is.
“But I need to speak to a number of people before I make that decision, and that involves the players.”
Itoje is one of seven uncapped players to be selected by Jones, part of the Australian’s long term vision.
Josh Beaumont, Jack Clifford, Elliott Daly, Ollie Devoto, Sam Hill, Paul Hill all come in alongside the St George’s man.
Jones said: “The long-term strategy for England is to develop a side who can be the most dominant team in world rugby, so we have chosen a lot of new players on the growth we see in them.
“We see these players growing into England players of the future and developing into a side who can be the best in the world.
“Our aim is to develop a squad where there is depth and competition in every position.”
England start their Six Nations campaign in Scotland on February 6.