Ollie Devoto goes from schoolboy fly-half to Six Nations winner with England under-20s
A year ago, Ollie Devoto was getting the butterflies whenever he played for his school. Fast forward 12 months, and the teenager has developed from schoolboy fly-half to the full-back in England under-20s’ Six Nations-winning side.
The pace of his progress has been dizzying. Straight after finishing his A-levels at Bryanston School in Dorset, Devoto joined Bath’s Academy. Then, when injury hit Bath’s inside backs during pre-
season, Devoto was propelled into the first team.
Back then, Devoto was still viewed as an out-and-out fly-half. But Bath head coach Gary Gold identified Devoto’s potential at full-back, and the 19-year-old soon found himself wearing the number 15 shirt for the Red Rose junior team.
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Devoto received his first cap when he came off the bench against France last month, and then started against both Italy and Wales as England sealed the Six Nations that eluded their senior team.
“If you’d have said to me this time last year while I was still at school that I’d have done what I’ve done I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Devoto.
“This year’s been fantastic for me, coming straight from school and not having played in any representative teams for England before.
“It’s the first year of my contract at Bath, and I never thought I would be involved so much.”
Recalling the moment he was pitched into battle against London Welsh in pre-season – opposite a certain Gavin Henson – he added: “It’s a big jump. I used to get quite nervous before games anyway, so to make that jump was certainly an eye-opener I will never forget.
“I couldn’t get enough of it. I was so fortunate to get that break at the start of the year.”
When Gold identified his potential as a sweeper, Devoto initially took some convincing.
“Gary said a couple of my strengths leant themselves to full-back – such as my kicking strategy – and I now enjoy getting up some speed and taking on players. I’m learning all the time from guys like Nick Abendanon about what lines to run.
“I still prefer fly-half but that’s probably only because I’ve played there for so many years.
“Gary has said that, short term, he sees me as a full-back. I’m growing in confidence in that position. I’d never played there before but I’m happy to be playing anywhere.
Meanwhile, Young Bath Rugby forward Charlie Ewels was yesterday named in the England under-18 squad for the 2013 FIRA/AER European Championship, held in Grenoble.
Defending champions England face Portugal in their first game tomorrow (7pm) before readying themselves for a potential semi-final and final.
Head coach John Fletcher said: “We’ve got a good squad for this tournament but we know that it will be a challenge.”
“Our aim is to build on the recent performances against Scotland and Wales and improve through the three games.”