IT WASN’T only in the Aviva Premiership that Exeter shone last season – their second XV, the Braves, went undefeated in the A League. One player to catch the eye in the 29-9 final win over Harlequins was Sam Hill, a 6ft and 15st 10lb centre who went on to don the No 13 shirt for England U20 at last month’s Junior World Cup.
The 18-year-old followed his schoolfriends to his local club, Crediton, at the age of nine, and he has played in numerous positions since. Having started at fly-half he was moved to the wing, and even spent some time with the forwards before finally settling in the midfield.
Though his preference is to play at 12, last season he played at outside-centre for both England U20 and Cornish Pirates, where he was on loan.
As well as appealing to his love of surfing, Hill, whose rugby heroes include All Blacks Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams, says his stint in Cornwall has done his rugby the world of good. “It’s been really good to get a lot of game time and I’ve improved from the start of the year,” he says. “Playing against good opposition every week is great for building up your confidence.”
Hill has always had size and physicality beyond his years, but the recent improvements in his game have also been noticed by England U20 backs coach Nick Walshe. He says: “The Pirates were excellent for Sam’s development and he’s now a totally different player. As well as his physicality, his distribution and passing skills have come on.”
Rugby World Verdict: A real jewel – expect to see a lot more of him in years to come. Bea Asprey
A mainstay of the Welsh U20 squad that reached the Junior World Championship semi-finals, the 6ft 3in and 17st Hamilton was part of the side that took the scalp of the Baby Blacks in an historic 9-6 win in Stellenbosch.
Hamilton is a West Walian made in Pembroke, but he’s been given a gloss finish by the Cardiff Blues, after being released by the Scarlets at 18.
“I started playing rugby at Tenby RFC and after a few years with the Scarlets, ex-Blues director of rugby Dai Young picked me up. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Hamilton, 20, has already played a few regional games at the Blues covering talisman Xavier Rush, a rare privilege for the youngster. “Xavier has just done it all. All you can do is watch and learn.”
Able to cover at lock, as he did during the Junior World Cup, he prefers the comfortable environs of the back row, at eight or six. “I love getting my hands on the ball, but ultimately I want to keep developing at the Blues and stay injury-free.”
Danny Wilson, his head coach with Wales U20, says Hamilton was an inspiration out in South Africa. “Luke was the glue for us, playing every minute of the tournament,” he says. “Even more, he really impressed me with his commitment and leadership.”
Rugby World Verdict: Hamilton possesses the drive and ability to reach the next level. Owain jones
This article appeared in the August 2012 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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