A schoolboy rugby player who switched from back to forward has been selected to join the England squad after playing in his new position less than a dozen times. Barnard Castle School sixth-former Jacob Oliver will join the England U18 tour of South Africa over the summer as hooker in the heart of the pack.
The 17-year-old of Cotherstone, in Teesdale, began playing rugby at Barnard Castle Preparatory School in Year 3.
Over the years he has played at scrum-half, fly-half and centre until director of rugby, former Northamptonshire and England No 9, Lee Dickson spotted his potential as a powerful fleet-footed hooker.
“He reflects the modern game perfectly and how it is changing,” Dickson said. “It’s like having an extra back as a forward, someone with power and speed, who can carry the ball and understands the game. Jacob has grabbed his new role with both hands, which his England selection shows after playing less than a dozen games.”
Jacob has grabbed his new role with both hands, which his England selection shows after playing less than a dozen games – Lee Dickson, former Northamptonshire and England No 9
Jacob said: “This has come at a really good time for me as I wasn’t sure where I was happiest playing and didn’t want to end up a utility sub. Now I can work on my game and am starting to see real progress.”
County level player
Over the years Jacob has played for school, Barnard Castle Rugby Club, at county level and for the past four years he has been part of the Newcastle Falcons development squad. He was part of the school’s first XV squad that reached the semi-finals of the national England Schools Cup and the HSBC National Schools 7s competition.
“I received an email inviting me to an England camp in Bristol where we played a North v South match,” Jacob said. “I got through to the next round of selection and played Scotland in a training game after which I found out I’d made the South Africa tour.
“As I’ve not played that many times my set piece, throwing and scrummaging were never going to be as good as other players, but I made sure, with practice, I was good enough, while my real strength is running and carrying the ball. I wouldn’t have wanted to be an old-style hooker but now they are smaller, faster and fitter I’m loving the challenge.”
Jacob will have a couple of pre-season matches to get through before the August tour and will be striving to remain injury-free.
“I don’t think I’ll really believe it is happening until I am sitting on the plane,” he said. “I never imagined I would play for my country one day and it is a huge honour. I think the emotions will come once I pull on the shirt.”
Main image: Barnard Castle School sixth-former Jacob Oliver who has been selected as hooker to join the England U18 squad for a tour of South Africa, pictured with the ball after scoring a try at the HSBC National Schools 7s competition
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