Lewis Moody may have retired, but there’s a new flanker in his mould making his mark in the East Midlands – at Franklin’s Gardens. Ben Nutley, who turns 20 this month, made his Northampton debut in 2010, but it was at the start of this season that he really announced his arrival. He made his Aviva Premiership debut against Gloucester in the club’s opening fixture and has remained a regular in the match-day 22 ever since, in both league and Heineken Cup.
Nutley grew up playing with his twin brother, Tom, at Stockwood Park in Luton, Moulton College and Northampton. Tom now plays for National One club Blaydon, while Ben’s first connection with the Saints came from his time at Moulton College, where he led the side and was coached by the club’s former lock Jon Phillips.
He was soon drafted into the Saints Academy and has benefited from having experienced back-rows like Phil Dowson, Tom Wood, Roger Wilson and Calum Clark at the club to learn from. “They are all massive influences at Northampton and great for advice,” he says.
Nutley is part of the England U20 squad, but his involvement in the recent Six Nations was limited as Saints retained him to play for the club while the likes of Dowson were on international duty. However, the Junior World Cup is on the agenda. England U20 coach Rob Hunter says: “Ben is robust and has a high work-rate – exactly what you want from a flanker.”
Rugby World Verdict: Exposure to the Premiership is a good way for Nutley to develop. Bea Asprey
A good kicking game is an essential asset for scrum-halves to possess in today’s game, and it’s one that 19-year-old Luke McGrath certainly has. As if to prove this point, he kicked a drop-goal for Ireland U20 in their Six Nations victory over Wales in February.
McGrath, who was born in Dublin and is now a member of the Leinster Academy, is in his first season with Ireland U20. He led the side against Scotland, scoring a try in the 26-0 win and being named Man of the Match. That victory set up the chance of a Grand Slam against England on the final Six Nations weekend, but a 20-9 defeat saw them miss out on the title. The former St Michael’s College pupil excelled playing rugby in his school days. He is sharp and has bags of pace, making life hard for back-rowers as he accelerates away from the side of the scrum, and is not afraid to put in the big tackles when needed.
McGrath has also been picked to captain teams throughout his career thanks to his enviable leadership qualities, and he led Ireland U18 Schools to victory over their English rivals to win last season’s FIRA-AER European Championship. “Luke has got a lot of enthusiasm but is a very humble lad, always happy and smiling,” says Ireland U20 coach Mike Ruddock. “He’s intelligent and understands the game very well and is a good organiser on the pitch. He leads by example and is also quite vocal. He’s a lovely guy who has a bright future ahead of him.”
Rugby World Verdict: McGrath is on the right path to reach the top of the game. Bea Asprey
This article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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