THERE were few prouder men than Dursley Colts coach Phil Sprague when watching England beat France in a thrilling Six Nations encounter at the Stade de France on Sunday.
Ben Morgan and Charlie Sharples were playing together for the first time since they were young protégées under Sprague at Dursley under-15s and both were heavily involved as Stuart Lancaster’s young guns triumphed 24-22 against the side who dumped them out of the World Cup on their way to the final just five months ago.
Gloucester winger Sharples, 22, was handed his first international start and a tournament debut after David Strettle failed a fitness test on Saturday, but was harshly sent to the sin bin in the second half for what referee Alain Rolland deemed a deliberate knock-on.
Scarlets No 8 Morgan, 23, won plenty of plaudits for a fine display in just his fourth cap, which included a superb break into the French 22 from the halfway line before a deft offload to Ben Foden for England’s second try.
Sprague said: “It’s one of rugby’s biggest thrills to start in a game like that in Paris.
“Ben has come through terrifically and Charlie got an opportunity as well. Ben made a really good run for the second try and Sharples was extremely unlucky to be yellow carded.
“Both of them played very well and the club is thrilled for them.
“Hopefully Charlie will retain his place and grow in the squad just like Ben has done.”
Morgan and Sharples both reacted to the victory on Twitter.
“Really enjoyed Paris, what a great feeling! Thanks for all your support,” said Morgan.
Sharples said: “Fantastic result for the team, disappointed on a personal level but onwards and upwards! Thanks for all the messages of support!”
Sprague is still in regular contact with former Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School pupil Morgan, who joined Dursley as a five-year-old and went through all the age groups before playing for the seniors.
Shortly after the Six Nations squad was announced Lancaster asked the players to name some of their major influences to answer key questions as part their preparation for the tournament and Morgan chose Sprague.
He said: “I was asked to give some words of advice on things that would inspire the players and I was delighted to do that. It was a great honour.”
Morgan will soon be playing with Sharples on a regular basis after agreeing to move to Gloucester this summer, and both will hope to keep their place in the team when England face Ireland at Twickenham on Saturday with slim hopes of overhauling Grand Slam chasers Wales to win the Championship.