STEPPING UP: Former Wanderers hooker Phil Bradford will play in an all-Newcastle front row for the NSW under-20s on Saturday. Picture: Marina Neil NSW Waratahs general manager of rugby Tim Rapp has no doubts that Wanderers hooker and former n Schoolboy Phil Bradford has the toolsto take his game to the next level.
Bradford will form an all Newcastle-bred front-row alongside Harry Johnson-Holmes and Harry Chapman when the NSW under-20s take on the Central West senior side in a trial at Mudgee on Saturday.
The hit-out, which is a curtain-raiser to the Waratahs versus Brumbies match, is the first of three trials before theopening Super 20s clash against the Western Force on February 25.
Bradford, who has a part of the Wanderers side which went down 37-28 to Hamilton in the Newcastle first-grade grand final last year, has joined former Two Blues coach Todd Louden at West Harbour and trains three sessions a week with the NSW 20s.
“The biggest thing for Phil is just getting used to the consistency of the training,” said Rapp, who is from Singleton and played for the Newcastle Wildfires.“The challenge for these kids to move out of Newcastle or rural NSW, wherever it may be, is not that easy. He has the football ability, no doubt.It is a matter of getting allthe off-field stuff organised and his time-management right and looking after himself in a new environment.”
Johnson-Holmes, who moved to Sydney last season and plays for Sydney University, has been one of the stars in the pre-season.
“We have thrown him into a few Waratahs sessions and he has held hisown,” Rapp said. “He did full contact, scrummaging, lineout, fitness, the whole lot. “
Chapman, who went to The Kings School and plays for Randwick, earned a late call-up to the n under-20s last year.
“He and Harry Johnson-Holmes should be the pillars of the scrum going to the championships,” Rapp said.
Former Wanderers fly-half Greg Thompson is the NSW 20s backs coach.
The Super-20s consists of one round, with top two teams to meet in the final after which ann squad will be picked for the World Championship in Georgia in June.
NSW has remodeled its junior talent identification process which begins with the under 15s Junior Gold Cup.In the under 16s, players are selected in either the NSW Schools, NSW Country or Sydney sides. The three sides play one another in trials before two NSW sides will be picked to play at the revamped National U16s championship.
“We have a lot more opportunity to identify players from all backgrounds and regions right across the state now,” Rapp said.