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Trailfinders Rugby Academy: #BuildingForTheFuture

The Trailfinders Rugby Academy is now entering its second year and continues to grow in to one of the most comprehensive rugby programmes in the country. The success of the first year has been proven as two players have joined the first team permanently with professional contracts, setting the example and showing how closely the Academy is aligned to the elite team.

Harry Dugmore in pre-season action for the first teamHarry Dugmore and Elliot Chilvers have both been rewarded for their impressive performances last year, and will now make the jump up to the fully professional environment. The Academy proved to be a huge success in its inaugural year as Team Brunel stormed their way to the title, with both Dugmore and Chilvers making their mark with the coaches. Dugmore, a back-rower who was previously at Whitgift School scored eight tries in nine appearances, but also made a mighty 79 tackles during that time. He came off the bench for the Trailfinders in the pre-season victory over Bishop’s Stortford, and will now be looking for more action in 20/21. Chilvers, who won the Coaches Player of the Season in the Academy played 14 matches in the front-row, with his scrummaging ability taking centre stage. He joined from Samuel Whitbread Academy, and after a year of significant progression he will now be learning off the likes of Will Davis and James Gibbons in his position. “Firstly, this is a really exciting piece of news to come from our Academy, and once again shows our vision for it to become the biggest programme in the country.” Said Director of Rugby Ben Ward. He continued: “Both players are here on merit and we see them very much in our plans for the future. Harry is a hard-hitting back-rower who can learn a huge amount from the likes of Rayn Smid and Kieran Murphy in his position. Elliot has worked incredibly hard to develop his set piece and game around the pitch. Steve Neville and the other coaches have done a great job working closely with him. Hopefully this can be used as motivation for all of our Academy players, and we hope many more players make the step in the coming years.”

This year the Academy are welcoming new coaches in to the group, with Glen Townson taking over as Head Coach after his spell as Forwards Coach of the first team for the 2019/20 season. The former Club Captain is delighted to be taking over such a talented group. “It is a real privilege for me to have taken on the role of the Trailfinders Rugby Academy Head Coach, and it is a project that I am extremely excited by. After spending the last year as Forwards and Defence Coach at Ealing Trailfinders following my retirement from playing, it gave me valuable experience in the professional environment, and now to get the opportunity to lead the academy and produce some stars of the future is a great honour. The talent that is already coming through is clear to see and it will only improve as we head towards the season. I am very fortunate to be working alongside some fantastic coaches, and we all have the same vision to make this the best rugby programme in England. With the likes of James Brooks, Steve Neville, Paddy Gill and Andy Holloway all involved the experience between the group is top class and there will be no stone unturned in our pursuit of excellence. This programme is already on the path to becoming the best in the country, and I’m confident that plenty of these players will make the transition in to professional rugby in the coming years.”

James Brooks has also joined as Transition Coach to assist the players on their journey to the first team. The former England Sevens player has a huge amount of experience, with a long career spanning nearly 20 years. He played for the likes of Northampton Saints, Wasps and Leeds Carnegie in the top flight, and won both the Heineken Cup and Premiership during his time at Wasps. Since retiring he has coached in Hong Kong as well as at Richmond and Old Ethamians organising their rugby programme with St Mary’s University. Brooks is excited by his new venture at Trailfinders Sports Club. “To be joining a club of this pedigree, as well as having huge ambitions in both the Championship and BUCS competitions is very exciting, and I’d like to thank Ben and his management team for the opportunity. I’m excited to immerse myself in the environment, and offer myself fully to ensure the club’s future stars are in the best possible position to perform, both on and off the field.”

There are also two now openings for next season, with the launch of a Sevens and a Saturday team. The purpose of these is to continually provide the right playing opportunities at the right time for any player involved in the Academy. The new intake of scholars have now arrived and are in the thick of their preseason as they build towards the 2020/21 campaign. Out of the 150 scholars there are a wide range who have joined from Premiership Academies as well as those straight from school, as well as a number of players who have joined from South Africa in pursuit of a career in England.

Harrison Obatoyinbo Brunel University and Ealing Trailfinders rugby scholarAs an example of how the platform of the Trailfinders Rugby Academy works, scholar Harrison Obatoyinbo has now signed for French giants Toulon after showing his quality last year. The Academy star was promoted to the first team squad for the 2020/21 season, but was approached by the Top 14 side and has now left for France. Obatoyinbo, who is formerly of Harrow School, is an electric finisher who can play across the back three. He scored nine tries in 11 matches for Team Brunel, and beat 74 defenders en route to the try-line throughout the year. “Ealing Trailfinders have been fantastic for me. They have a great rugby infrastructure and a genuine, supportive community of staff and players who made me feel welcome and wanted. The Trailfinders Rugby Academy is a great opportunity for young players with goals of being a professional. Thank you to everyone who’s helped me to kick start my career.” Said the young star.

Elsewhere in the Trailfinders Rugby Academy, we have also started our new partnership with The Henley College. The Trailfinders Rugby Academy is now recruiting Under 18s to join in September, in partnership with The Henley College. This provides the opportunity to play in the RFU Ace League, the highest division for that age group in the country. You will have the opportunity to compete at one of the highest levels of college sport whilst completing your studies in a variety of engaging BTEC, A Level or Foundation courses before using the pathway available to transition towards apprenticeships and Brunel University London. Whilst the rugby programme requires a high level of commitment, the academic programme comes first. Students are encouraged to stay on top of their studies, with the rugby staff providing pastoral support in helping the students to manage their time effectively. The College has a diverse academic offer to suit the needs of the student, including 32 different A Levels and a wide range of BTEC and vocational courses. Overall, there was a 97% A Level pass rate in 2019, with 21 subjects achieving a 100% pass rate. The Henley College now offers an articulated pathway to the Brunel University London Scholarship Programme, where you can apply for a full-time rugby scholarship in partnership with the Trailfinders Rugby Academy with Brunel University London. Brunel Rugby Union field four teams and have BUCS fixtures weekly. On a Trailfinders scholarship at Brunel, you will have the opportunity to train with the first team at Ealing Trailfinders, giving you immediate exposure to international standard players to help your development. You may also be invited to attend full pre-season training with the club.

Tom Redfern has been appointed as the Head Coach of the Ealing Trailfinders and Henley College Partnership, a coach with plenty of experience after spending the last five years as a Rugby Development Officer and Community Coach with the RFU, and he also had 18 months as a Premiership Rugby Coach in Brazil during the build up to the 2016 Olympics. During his playing days he featured for Rugby Mantova in Italy before making the transition in to coaching, where he is now Head Coach of Woodford Rugby Club. Redfern is delighted to be joining the Trailfinders Rugby Academy for this new project. “I am extremely excited to be leading the Rugby programme at the Henley College where we aim to create an environment to prepare and support our students for a prosperous future in Rugby and beyond. The established partnership with Ealing Trailfinders will enable us to attract the most talented students across the country, where they will benefit from the expert coaches, facilities and pastoral care the program will provide. My experiences have been varied and I’ve been afforded some amazing opportunities off the back of my college ACE days, 9 years ago where I’ve played and coached in the USA, Italy and Brazil. Most recently I have been working for the RFU as a Rugby Development Officer and with the Developing Player Pathway at London Irish Academy.” Ty Sterry, Manager of the Trailfinders Rugby Academy is pleased to add Redfern to the coaching group. “I have had the pleasure of working with Tom during our time at the RFU. Tom has great knowledge of talent identification principles from his experiences in inner city London and Hertfordshire which will add value to the recruitment and talent development plans at Henley College.” The Trailfinders Rugby Academy is now recruiting Under 18s to join in September, in partnership with The Henley College, if you would like to find out more information please email

This article was first published in the Autumn Issue of the Ealing Trailfinders Quarterly Magazine. Read the original here