Rugby: Josh Novell Joins England U18s
Josh Novell has been at Bede's since the First Year.
He is an outstanding School Prefect and a pillar of the Dorms House boarding community. Those who know him are well aware that his passion for Rugby runs deep, and the realisation of his ambition to play for England at U18s is the result of over five years of steadily more intensive training.
"I enjoyed Rugby when I was younger," Josh explains, "but when I first joined Bede's I was actually part of the Football Academy. I played for the Under 14 A Team and the Under 15 A Team too, but I didn't do anything with my football apart from play in School matches. During that time though, through playing with local Rugby clubs, I realised that I might have some talent so switched my focus."
At over 6 foot 5 inches tall, Josh is a towering presence. He has "always been tall" and, apart some brief spells dabbling at Full Back, he has consistently played in the Second Row - both at Bede's and at the other clubs he has played for, which in recent years have included Sussex County, the South East Regional side, Harlequins, Welsh Exiles, Cardiff Blues, Crowborough Rugby Club and now England.
Josh with some members of last year's 1st XV.
This success has been hard won, and has required an awful lot of commitment from Josh's mum, who is used to driving him all over the country for fixtures and training.
"She has carted me to all of my games, and continues to if she can. I recently got my license, but she still comes to every game she can make. She's amazing."
Josh's recent call-up to the national 1st XV came as a result of a series of England Counties U18 fixtures during which he was drafted into the South East Squad. During February, at the England Regional Divisional Festival in Loughborough, he took part in a three day training camp with his fellow South East squad mates, during which they had a rather effective run.
"On the Friday, we played a series of 10-a-side games, during which we were unbeaten," he explains. "This was followed by a Saturday spent training and a full, 15-a-side game versus the South West on Sunday."
And how did the match go?
"We won 39 nil," he grins. "It was quite successful."
Josh was one of three players from the South East Regional Squad to be called up to represent England, but the journey to play for his country at U18 Level was not straightforward. He started playing Rugby for Crowborough at 11 and made steady progress, playing for both the Sussex County and Harlequins U17s setups while still an U15 player.
"I was part of the 'Quins Elite Player Development Group, which was great, but they dropped me last September. They gave no reason, and they told me I'd been a great player for them, which was confusing, but it's the best thing that's happened to me. It led me to pursue the England Development Pathway."
After being dropped by Harlequins, Josh has had a 100% win rate with Cardiff Blues - an opportunity which grew out of his 2 year captaincy of the Welsh Exiles U18 invitational team, which started when he was only 16.
The year previous he had also joined the Sussex County squad and had decided to take his Rugby seriously, having struggled at U15 Level.
"It comes down to training really. I scaled up the number of hours I was on the pitch or working with Mr Morris in the Fitness Suite doing Strength and Conditioning. I reached about 14 hours of training a week last year, which is the regimen I've kept up ever since."
Currently studying BTEC Sport and Psychology, Josh only has a few months remaining at Bede's, during which he will have his final Rugby fixtures for the school. Denied their chance at the Sussex County Cup by the Worth 1st XV before half term, the only remaining prize in the Bede's season could be the upcoming National 7's Competition at Roselyn Park. How does Josh fancy our chances?
"I'm looking forward to it, but we're in a group with Hartpury. In case you don't know, Hartpury and Loughborough are where the England Teams train, and where I will be training with the England U18s for our upcoming fixtures against France and Ireland. It's going to be tough, but I'm looking forward to it."