Over the Easter break Ben Kelland, Year 11, played rugby for London and South East U16 division at the BMW Wellington International Festival. This event was an opportunity for the young players to take on their first challenges in international rugby following a selection process that started in March. 100 players from four divisional groups – Midlands, North, London and South East and South West – played in a series of development matches leading to the final selection of 23 players for the England U16 squad.
On the first day, Ben played the whole game in second row against Italy and scored in the second half, contributing to a 38-5 win. The second game was against Wales Celts, the strongest of the two Welsh divisions, but due to competition rules, Ben could not play in the first half. He did however play in the second, helping London to win 29-21.
As a result of Ben’s excellent performances, he was one of the squad of 23 selected to play for the England U16 against Scotland on the final day of the tournament at Wellington College. The England team started slow conceding 8 points and 12 penalties but they then went onto score 32 unchallenged points. Ben was replaced after 10 minutes of the second half but, due to injuries in the back row, he re-joined the game to play blind side flanker for 10 minutes and finished the last 15 minutes at number 8. England comfortably won the game 32-22. After the game, Ben was awarded his England Cap by Rob Andrew, RFU Director of Elite Rugby.
Having played so well, in what were in essence trail games, Ben was also selected to play for the England U16 side against Wales on Sunday 27 April at Neath RFC. Despite a close fought game that could have gone either way, the result was a victory for England U16 24–22. Unfortunately, Ben suffered a rib injury but played the majority of the game to gain his second Cap.
Director of Sport, Paul Hardman, said “This is a fantastic achievement for Ben who is also part of Northampton Saints Junior academy”.