TWO youngsters from Dursley Rugby Club met their heroes this week when they went to watch England train ahead of their first autumn international against Fiji at Twickenham.
Under-12 players Dominic Stephenson and Esme Harper-Coles were nominated to take part in a new initiative which celebrates the link between members of England’s elite player squad and their formative grassroots clubs.
Dursley were given the chance to pick two players to recognise the part they played in supporting the early careers of Gloucester duo Ben Morgan and Charlie Sharples.
After watching national boss Stuart Lancaster conduct a training session at Pennyhill Park, Stephenson and Harper-Coles were introuduced to all the players and it will get even better for the pair when England face South Africa at Twickenham on November 24.
The England players picked in the 23-man squad for that game will each walk onto the Twickenham pitch accompanied by their mascot. Even if their players do not make the starting squad, the mascots will be invited to the game as special guests for the day.
Morgan’s mascot, 12-year-old Esme Harper-Coles from Dursley, said the experience so far has been “amazing”
She added: “It was very intense seeing how hard they train. My highlight was watching some of the lineouts close up.”
Stroud-based Stephenson, 11, who is Sharples’ mascot, came away from the day out with a rugby ball and flag full of autographs from the England stars.
He said: “I was quite excited. A lot of people get to see them, but not shake hands or take pictures with them.
“We got to go by the pitch and they played a little match, which was the best part.”
Dursley RFC mini and youth section chairman Wayne Lucas was delighted the club could be part of this initiative.
He said: “We have a great sense of pride as a club to have contributed to producing two England players and we are so pleased that our efforts have been recognised by England Rugby.
“We would like to thank Stuart Lancaster, Ben and Charlie for looking after Dominic and Esme.
“I know they throuroughly enjoyed their experience and are very excited about attending the South Africa Test at Twickenham.”
Morgan has since been released from England duty to play in Gloucester’s LV=Cup game against Ospreys on Friday, but Sharples remains in contention to face Fiji on Saturday.