England Under-18 calls for Jack van Poortvliet and Freddie Steward

Norfolk youngster Jack van Poortvliet has gained national recognition Picture: FAMILY

Norfolk youngster Jack van Poortvliet has gained national recognition Picture: FAMILY - Credit: Archant

It has been quite a week for young Norfolk rugby player Jack van Poortvliet.

The 17-year son of former North Walsham skipper Jeff van Poortvliet was part of the Leicester Tigers side who beat Gloucester 34-11 on Sunday to become Academy Under-18 League champions for the second year running.

And hardly had the celebrations died down than the scrum-half was being named in a 42-strong England Under-18 squad for a development camp in Bristol, which got under way yesterday.

It will serve as preparation for March's fixtures against Scotland and France before April's Under-18 Six Nations Festival, when van Poortvliet will be aiming to make his mark on the international stage.

'Jack is really chuffed and so are we,' said his dad. 'It is a reward for all the hard work he has put in for the Tigers and at Oakham School.

'There is a clear pathway now from the Under-18s onto the Under-20s and the senior side and this is the first step - it's a great opportunity for all the lads who have been chosen.'

England will face Scotland at Billingham on March 17 and France a week later at Cheshunt. The Under-18 Festival will then see England face Wales on April 13, Ireland on April 17 and France on April 21.

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Jack, who first played the game with North Walsham Minis, is one of two Norfolk players to have been chosen for the training camp, with fellow Tiger and Norwich School pupil Freddie Steward one of the fullbacks included.

Both players also featured in the Tigers Academy team who came through a titanic battle to beat Gloucester at Allianz Park, with back row Ollie Ashworth (Langley School) also featuring.

Club captain and fellow Norfolk player Tom Youngs praised the young stars after they secured back-to-back U18 titles on Sunday.

'It's fantastic,' he said. 'There are some good boys coming through the club at the moment, which is great because they are the backbone of Leicester Tigers and always have been over the years.'

Academy coach Jamie Taylor added: 'Academy programmes are not about winning leagues, it's a nice feeling, but what really matters is how well lads are getting on in the future.'

Norwich travel to Thetford on Saturday for a Norfolk Cup semi-final which will also be the first game that either team has played in this season's competition.

They will be competing for the right to take on North Walsham for the trophy at the end of the season.

The Vikings have reached the final without playing at all, having been handed a walk-over by scheduled opponents Diss earlier in the month.

Norwich will be without four key players, Pip Scott, Theo Elliott, Mike Lawton and Laurence Austin for the trip to a side who play one level lower than them in London Three Eastern Counties.

They will be keen to put the poor performance of last weekend behind them when South Woodham Ferrers were fighting for their survival in London Two North East and played accordingly. Norwich, who had one of those days where nothing went right, will be expecting no less a fierce encounter with Thetford.

'Last week's game against a side struggling with relegation produced a performance from the squad that is best forgotten,' said director of rugby David Everitt. 'At the end of the game the players knew that they had let the club, the coaches and themselves down badly. Some home truths were voiced after the final whistle by skipper Matt Selby and head coach Lee Parry which left no one in any doubt about what was required to halt our downturn in performance.'

He continued: 'If players want to wear the shirt they will have to earn it so selection of the side will not have been made until after training, based on performance and commitment.

'Thetford will provide us with a stern test with an opportunity to beat a team from a higher league. They will start as underdogs but it will be who wants it most that will win.'

The tie kicks off at 2pm.

There are no league fixtures scheduled for the weekend but there is also action at Bridge Road, where Holt Owls host Dereham in the semi-final of the Norfolk Junior Cup. The 1.30pm kick-off will enable the players and spectators to watch the Wales v England game in the clubhouse afterwards.

West Norfolk Ladies' beat Woodbridge Amazons 41-12 at Gatehouse Lane in their penultimate home game of the season.

No 8 Mary Hegarty weaved through the Amazons' defence to put the first points on the board, with the score immediately increasing from the boot of Zoe Sharp with the first of three conversions. Back of the match Sharp barely had time to catch her breath before scoring the next points after receiving the ball from her twin Kathryn.

Woodbridge reduced the arrears before further scores from Amber Wadlow and Kelly Saunders increased the home lead.

The first try of the second half came as outstanding phase play from the whole team allowed Lucy Shaw to score with her first touch of the ball on the wing. Further tries from Leah Watson and Zoe Sharp completed a comfortable win.

West Norfolk's final home game is on March 3 against Stanford Le Hope. Training is on Wednesday nights at Gatehouse Lane, from 6pm for girls and from 7pm for the seniors.

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