Two friends’ hopes of following Billy Twelvetrees all the way from Horsham to international stardom are a step closer.
Finlay Hillicks, 18, and Charlie Piper are getting set for a match against Ireland after receiving their first call-ups to the England U18 Clubs and Schools side.
The pair live round the corner from each other in the town and both came through the youth ranks at Horsham before joining the youth set up at Harlequins.
Being a year apart it was only at Quins that the two starting playing in the same side. Their friendship has been strengthened by inclusions in the Sussex, and then South East Regional sides, where both impressed enough to make the grade for England.
“I was overjoyed when I found out I’d been selected,” said Collyer’s pupil Finlay, who is joining the Bath Rugby Club’s academy in September. “I’d been told I had a good chance after my performance for the South East side but when I got the call I was really really pleased.
“My aim at the start of the season was to make the regional side so I’ve exceeded those expectations. But now I’m in the squad I’m aiming to show enough in the two warm-up games to get a start.”
Starting with a warm-up against Bedford this Sunday, Finlay will be looking to secure his place in England’s second row, while hooker Charlie, one of the youngest members of the squad, will be vying for the number 2 shirt.
“With Charlie living just down the road from me we’ve become close friends and we’ve been sharing the travelling to the Sussex and South East games,” Finlay said. “It’ll be good to already have a friend in the squad when we meet up, and as Charlie’s already been involved in the England Under-16 setup before it’ll probably be him guiding me.”
Former Horsham and Pulborough colt Twelvetrees and ex Christ’s Hospital School pupil Joe Launchbury have been starring for Stuart Lancaster’s England in an unbeaten start to the Six Nations, and Cranleigh School pupil Charlie says their phenomenal success is a great motivation. “It’s great that people from this area are doing so well and reaching the highest level, it just shows what can be achieved with hard work,” he said. “It was really great news hearing I was selected and I’m really looking forward to playing.”