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Teenager's England call

PUBLISHED: 08:15 28 February 2008 | UPDATED: 14:28 07 July 2010

Charlie Clare of Reepham.

Charlie Clare of Reepham.

Reepham's Charlie Clare is the latest Norfolk rugby prospect to force his way into the England reckoning. Having first thrown a rugby ball at the tender age of two, his rapid rise to prominence should come as no surprise.

Reepham's Charlie Clare is the latest Norfolk rugby prospect to force his way into the England reckoning. Having first thrown a rugby ball at the tender age of two, his rapid rise to prominence should come as no surprise.

The 16-year-old, has enjoyed an incredible start to the new year, having been called up the England U16 squad and earning an academy contract with Guinness Premiership giants Leicester Tigers, writes Phil Banyard.

All that is a far cry from those early steps on to the rugby field at Holt, where he spent 10 years before moving on to North Walsham, but there is no danger of the teenager forgetting the importance of those formative years.

Clare said: “It is a dream come true and it's something I've been aiming for for a long time. The Leicester contract is particularly pleasing because it is possibly harder to get into Leicester than it is to get into the England junior squads, so I am delighted.

“I've been very lucky as I've played with many good rugby players in Norfolk. There are some very good clubs in the county and quite a few lads from Norfolk are getting chances to step up now, so it is no longer a rugby backwater.”

Clare attended Reepham School until the age of 13, before opting to take a place at Sedburgh School in Cumbria, which has a long-established rugby tradition and lists among its former pupils ex-England stars Will Carling and Will Greenwood.

The Norfolk youngster has captained the county's U14s, played for Eastern Counties U16s and more recently he was selected as captain of the North of England side for his age group. He has also captained Leicester's U16s and as a 15-year-old he played for their U17s side.

Leicester will continue to monitor his progress while he completes his education at Sedburgh, and he will attend the academy during school holidays.

Leicester's Elite Player Development Group coach for Norfolk, Jon Curry, knows Clare well from his time at North Walsham and he said: “It is not a surprise at all to see him doing well. He was marked down at an early age as one who could go on to bigger and better things. Physically he is the right shape and mentally he has a fantastic attitude to the game.”

Clare is in a 60-man England U16s squad, which is due to be trimmed into two groups of 26 after a camp at Hartpury College.

They will take part in a Four Nations tournament against France, Wales and Italy in Lyon in March, while the A team squad will participate in the Millfield Festival in Somerset from March 31 to April 6 against teams from Canada, Romania and Scotland.

Then in July, Clare will further his rugby education with a school tour to Argentina.

By joining Leicester he is following in the footsteps of Norfolk brothers Ben and Tom Youngs, from Aylsham, who have both gone on to represent the Tigers' first team.

And the Norfolk contingent is boosted further as two more of the county's young stars are among the intake of seven players to the Leicester academy.

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