There were three ex-Heath Colts in the line-up as England took the field in their first Six Nations games of the year against Wales.
On Friday evening cheered on in front of the big screen by a full Heath Clubhouse, Joe Marler (captain of Harlequins) and Billy Twelvetrees (captain of Gloucester) were both immensely proud to be involved in the epic encounter at The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. England overturned the odds on a hotly-tipped and vastly experienced Welsh side, to win more convincingly than the 21-16 final score suggests.
Having seen off fierce competition in selection from British and Irish Lions loose-head props Alex Corbeserio and Mako Vunipola, Joe started and continued to impress as the cornerstone of England’s strong scrummaging performance. All the experience of his 26 caps came into play in seeing off the much-vaunted and aptly-named Welsh prop Samson Lee.
With a number of good carries and tackles, it was no surprise that Joe picked up an 8/10 rating in Sunday’s Rugby Paper, one of six England players to do so. Meanwhile, centre Billy continued to warm the bench until the last few minutes of the game. In an all too brief cameo and with England just two points ahead, he set up the turnover penalty from which young, exciting George Ford stroked through England’s final and critical three points for a famous win.
In an equally tense and exciting Under 20 international on Saturday night in the North Wales Stadium at Colwyn Bay, James Chisholm (pictured), another Harlequin, played the full 80 minutes and scored the first English try.
Number 8 James - who won a Junior World Cup winner’s medal with the Under 20s last year - continued his string of impressive displays at international level. Whilst this time Wales gained revenge with a 22-16 win, overcoming a half time England lead and recording their first win at this level in seven years, James was always prominent in attack and defence. On 16 minutes he scored a superb and classic number 8 try.
Picking up at the base of an advancing England scrum just inside the Wales 22 metre line, he dummied, exploited the gap he’d created and powered through with strength and pace to score as two red shirts clung on desperately. Although there were more heroics from James, he’ll be desperately disappointed with the loss - and with Harlequins losing to Gloucester in the LV Cup, where older brother Ross started for Quins.
Now, for both the senior and junior England squads, it’s Italy next – the senior squad at Twickenham next Saturday and the Under 20s at Plymouth Albion next Saturday night. You might not make Plymouth, but put the evening of Friday March 20th in your diary. That’s when England Under 20s take on France at the Amex Stadium in Brighton – a match that could well decide the Junior Six Nations. Tickets on sale now at £15 per adult, £10 concessions and £5 for under 18s. You can buy them in person at the Stadium, on 0844 3271901 or on www.seagullstickets.com