Halliford School in Shepperton has a reputation for punching above its weight in all departments, not least in its commitment to sport, so it is hardly surprising that the same characteristic should apply to one of its rugby playing staff members, teaching assistant Peter Hodgkinson.
Hodgkinson will be pulling on an England Counties XV jersey in the next two weeks during that team’s three-match, two-week tour to Spain from May 31.
At 5ft 9in and 13st 10lbs, the Ealing Trailfinders player is one of the shorter members of the 26-man squad, but like the school that employs him, he stands shoulder to shoulder with the bigger members of the squad in terms of talent and determination.
From a rugby purist’s standpoint, he is a class act, which may have something to do with his being voted Players’ Player of the Season at Ealing recently.
The 26-year-old utility back from Chertsey honed his rugby skills in the 13-a-side game with London Skolars, Harlequins RL and the Great Britain Students RL team before switching to Rugby Union.
He resisted the temptation to put his foot in the 15-a-side water with one of the high-end RU clubs in London, opting instead for Ealing Trailfinders, where he plays today.
Fishing and golfing are his principle interests outside sport, but for the next two weeks his focus will be entirely on maintaining the high standards he set during his England Counties XV debut against the AIB Ireland International Team in Dublin in March.
“Pulling on an England jersey against the Irish team was a huge honour and the whole Counties experience was one I enjoyed immensely,” he says: “I was impressed with the efficiency of the training sessions, the dedication and professionalism of the management team and the way the whole squad pulled together to form a working unit after only a few sessions together.
“I’m really looking forward to being involved in that environment again and the challenges it presents. I will be one of only four players from the Ireland trip in March who are heading for Spain and that means that once again the process of getting to know each other, building unit skills and team strategies in a short space of time will be so important.
“But that’s what makes being chosen again so exciting and stimulating. You are learning all the time and being challenged to stand up and be counted in terms of making a contribution to a common cause. It’s a tremendous opportunity and I’m so grateful to all the people who have made it possible. At times like this the support of your family and your girlfriend come into sharp relief and more recently the help of Dave Partington at Cheshire gave me my county credentials.
“Obviously a trip to Spain at this time of year would be out of the question without the support of Halliford School colleagues and I owe a big debt of thanks to Director of Sport Ian Bardgett and Deputy Head Richard Talbot.
“One very positive aspect of the trip from a Halliford perspective is the added knowledge and experience I’ll acquire while I’m away and that is something I’ll be bringing back to the school when rugby restarts in September.
“What I also learned from the trip to Ireland, which to be honest I hadn’t really appreciated until it happened, was how proud people are of your achievements if you are lucky enough to play for an England team. That realisation was a very important aspect of the trip for me and made me more aware of the responsibilities of being a suitable role model for the young people I’m involved with at Halliford.”
England Counties squad:
Forwards: Rob Baldwin (Wharfedale & Yorkshire), Richard Boyle (Tynedale & Northumberland), Matt Hall (Blaydon & Northumberland), Ben Hilton (Launceston & Cornwall), Martin Kent (Macclesfield & Cheshire), Aaron Myers (Westoe & Durham), Steve Pape (Rosslyn Park & Somerset), Jack Preece (Birmingham Solihull & Gloucestershire), Rob Schillaci (Hertford & Hertfordshire), Ben Sparks (Stourbridge & Gloucestershire), Tom Stradwick (Henley & Kent), Tommy Taylor (Sale Jets & Cheshire), Craig Voisey (Moseley & North Midlands), Gavin Woods ( Caldy & Cheshire).
Backs: Ollie Brennand (Fylde & Lancashire), Gareth Collins (Leicester Lions & Warwickshire), Steve Hamilton (Rotherham & Kent), Peter Hodgkinson (Ealing & Cheshire), Tom Hughes (Preston Grasshoppers & Lancashire), Cameron Mitchell (Plymouth Albion & North Midlands), Charlie Mulchrone (Macclesfield & Cheshire), Fergus Mulchrone (unattached & Cheshire), Harry Peck (Tynedale & Northumberland), Aaron Penberthy (Redruth & Cornwall), Ollie Thomas (Moseley & North Midlands), Curtis Wilson (Leeds & Yorkshire).