Local boy has sights set on 6 Nations glory
A YOUNGSTER who came through one of the region’s most established youth sections has spoken of his delight after he was named in the England Under-20s squad for the forthcoming 6 Nations tournament.
Hooker Mike Haywood has been called up to the squad for the first time and is set to play a key role in England’s campaign which kicks off against Wales this week.
And with the IRB Junior World Championships in Italy on the horizon, it is not so far-fetched to suggest that an impressive year could see Haywood as one-to-watch in the build-up to the 2015 World Cup in England.
But for now, the quiet teenager, who progressed through the ranks at Colchester before joining Northampton Saints, is simply thinking about the here and now.
Haywood, who has only just turned 19, met up with his new international team mates at a recent training camp in Surrey before the group reassembled this week for their first 6 Nations match.
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Now rubbing shoulders with youngsters who have already broken into their Premiership and Championship sides, Haywood said: “The standard is really high which means I have to work hard. But it also means we have a really good chance in the 6 Nations and then the World Cup.
“The training camp was really good, it was a great chance to get us working together and ready for the Wales game. The coaches have said I have a good chance of starting but we will have to wait and see. I am really looking forward to it.”
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At club level, Haywood signed his first professional contract with the Saints this season and has since been regularly involved with their Wanderers 2nd XV.
It is some climb for the former Eastern Counties player who spent seven years at Colchester - and continues to have good connections with the Essex side, watching their 38-25 win over Ruislip last Saturday.
Haywood, who has played for the country at Under-16s level, was actually a late call-up for Rob Hunter’s 32-man Under-20s squad.
The youngster said: “Not getting in the initial squad just made me try even harder and I would like to thank everyone at the club and my friends who helped make it possible. My goal was always to get into the 6 Nations Squad and then the World Cup after that.”
Hunter, the head coach, feels Haywood has the ability to make the step-up to international rugby saying: “I’ve been impressed with both Guy (Armitage) and Mike, they came out to Portugal with us on our training camp and looked sharp.”
England Under-20s kick off their 6 Nations campaign with a trip to Llanelli on Saturday before home matches against Italy, France and Scotland and then rounding off the campaign in Ireland on March 19.