Thu, 15 Nov 2018
FORMER St Bartholomew pupil Ollie Hassell-Collins has set his sights on playing for England under-20s in the Six Nations and junior rugby World Cup.
The 19-year-old made his senior debut for London Irish – playing 80 minutes in their 38-29 victory against Cornish Pirates – on October 27.
Not only did Hassell-Collins play the full game, he also scored a try at the Madejski Stadium in front of his family and friends.
“It was a great experience to make my debut in such a big game,” he said.
“It was extra special because it was a home game and all of my friends and family came along.
“The day was topped off with a try, which made it that little bit extra special.”
Along with making his first appearance for Irish, the winger also made his debut for England under-18s during their tour to South Africa in 2017.
Hassell-Collins was handed his first cap in a game against Wales, a moment he’ll never forget.
He said: “That tour was pretty special, as I made my debut for England and it was an honour to be presented with a cap in a country like South Africa.
“My family also made the trip out there, which always helps make the day extra special.”
The 19-year-old, who is from Newbury, was a little surprised with his international call-up as he was injured last year.
He said: “It was a great tour and I was really happy to have finally been given the opportunity to play for my country.”
Hassell-Collins came through the ranks at Newbury Rugby Club, playing at Monks Lane from an early age, something he thanks his parents for.
“They have travelled all across the country to watch me play and I try to do what I can to make them proud,” he said.
“My dad was a massive influence in my early rugby career – he took me up to Newbury rugby club from an early age and just went up through the age groups.”
And having spent the majority of time with Newbury, Hassell-Collins has praised the support from everyone at the club.
“They have helped me a lot coming through the age groups, especially as I got a bit older,” he said.
“As the club was just up the road, I realised I wanted to take my rugby seriously and it enabled me to go up to the club and do some kicking or fitness whenever I wanted.”
Now that Hassell-Collins has made his mark for London Irish, he’s set himself the target of having a strong season to put himself in contention to make the England under-20s squad.
He said: “I hope to get some more first-team games and also hopefully get selected for the under-20 squad ahead of the Six Nations and the junior World Cup.”
The winger feels he can benefit from the help of some of the more experienced players at London Irish, like Topsy Ojo.
He said: “It’s great having people like Topsy around the place.
“All of the academy players are able to go up to a senior player and ask for advice or any questions.”
“It’s great having people like that so we can learn from their experiences and new experiences we encounter.”