Billy Sela Exclusive: 'BUCS Super Rugby has prepared me well for these Six Nations games'

Sela is set to start his third consecutive Six Nations game against Scotland on Friday
©RFU Collection via JMP

England Under-20s have had an impressive Six Nations campaign so far, with respective 36-11 and 28-7 wins over Italy and Wales.

The two try bonus points they’ve collected have shown their impressive ability to get over the whitewash, but at the forefront of their dominance has been their brute force throughout the pack.

Two weeks ago, Wales' scrum suffered an obliteration from the English forwards, and whilst players like Henry Pollock and Asher Opoku-Fordjour have been getting worthy mainstream media praise for their performances, the whole squad deserve to be given their flowers.

One of these players who may have gone under the radar is Billy Sela - the 18-year-old tighthead from Hounslow who is looking to make a name for himself in his first year in the Under-20s set-up.

"It took a while to settle in”, begins Sela, when asked about his first month in England camp. "Coming off the Portugal camp we had before this Six Nations camp, training was tough but I feel like everyone's fitness is starting to build up just from training together and I feel like all our connections together as a team have gotten really tight, so we’re pretty tight as a squad now. So yeah, I enjoyed it (the first month of camp)."

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England's performances have undoubtedly indicated a sense of togetherness in the group, and this weekend they travel up to Scotland who will be looking to find their first win of the campaign.

"Their main threat is in their mauls and scrums," says Sela. "They’ve got a lot of patience, so we will just try to stay in the fight. Don’t pull out too early, hold in and hold in and when they release, we release as well.”

The Bath tighthead was referring to the battle up front, and listening to the emerging talent, it was clear the level of technical knowledge and detail England have obtained ahead of this fixture.

Sela is obviously aware of the quality that lies within the England squad and after two wins on the trot, it would be easy to get carried away with hopes of a Grand Slam but the 18-year-old is staying level-headed and taking every moment as it comes.

"I think we are taking it game by game right now. Yeah, there’s definitely been talks with the players that we want to go for that Grand Slam, but we’re just taking it one game at a time so far but it’s looking good, it’s looking good.”

England Under-20s have not won a Grand Slam since 2021 and to do so this year they will have to beat Scotland and then take down both Ireland and France.

Ireland have beaten them two years in a row on the way to a Grand Slam, and France put 50 past them in last year’s Under-20s World Championship semi-final so Sela knows the quality these two sides hold.

"We have been saying that France and Ireland are the two teams that are probably going to cause us the most trouble. We’ve definitely been looking at them and we’re looking forward to playing them.”

With the way England's front-row has been scrummaging, they are a side that Scotland, Ireland and France can’t take lightly, especially with Sela's teammate - Opoku-Fordjour - in the kind of form that has earned him many plaudits.

The Sale Sharks prop has been tearing up Premiership and European pitches alike, with standout performances against some huge names including La Rochelle and Leinster.

Sela is relatively inexperienced compared to his counterpart, and he has been loving the opportunity to play alongside him.

"I learn a lot from just being around him because he loves to play tighthead as well. Whenever we go through (game and training) reviews and everything, he gives me little tips on what he’s done and how he’s gone further and made his breakthrough.

"I normally just learn from him and he gives me tips, and then I just watch him from there and try to implement that into the games."

Another man Sela is enjoying learning from, and has done for most of his short career so far, is former Bath front rower and current England Under-20s coach, Nathan Catt.

Catt made 170 appearances for Bath and won an Under-20s Grand Slam himself but is now part of the England Rugby pathway set-up.

"He’s very clear with what he wants in the scrums, and he just knows what he’s talking about,” says Sela, full of praise for his coach. "He’s easy to trust with the scrums because he’s been a professional player as well, and he just loves a scrum.

"He has a good understanding of what he wants to see, and of what we want. It’s very clear what he’s trying to get at, and we just understand as a squad and it’s amazing."

Sela is clearly thriving under the tutelage of Catt and having been at Bath since he was 15, he has trained alongside his fair share of world-class props. The current roster at the club includes Beno Obano, Will Stuart and World Cup winner Thomas Du Toit.

Sela made his debut for his boyhood club in a friendly against Edinburgh last autumn and is also currently in his first year at the University of Bath,

"I’m enjoying it a lot," says Sela. "It took me a while to get used to the studies and balancing it with rugby. I’ve really, really enjoyed it because all the players that I play with are in my class as well, so we’ve kind of got the same struggles.

"We just talk through it and we help each other out. The layout the club has with the uni is just like integrated, so the calls are pretty much the same, and everyone’s just working together. It makes everything so much easier for the players to settle in.”

Like many professional players before him, many of whom have played at the University of Bath, the tighthead is seeing what BUCS Super Rugby has to offer, and he has made nine appearances to date.

“Me and Scott (Kirk) [another University of Bath player in the England Under-20s squad] have been saying how on my first BUCS game I underestimated how fast it would be, and then going in I was actually properly tired!

"From there, we’ve just been training hard and yeah, just like the speed the game goes as it is pretty fast. It’s prepared us well for these Six Nations games.

"I don’t have to travel between the club and university, so I can just stay at university, get the same amount of support through the coaches and physios and everything whilst doing studies as well. There’s a good balance between the two and it’s perfect for me.”

For many players, university offers a chance to develop one's skills outside of the pitch too, and with the quality of the rugby set-ups in these institutions continuing to rise, the number of young men selecting this option is only increasing.

"I was always thinking about going out on loan, never really talking about university, but when they told me you’ll get the same support as we get at the club, then I was like okay, yeah, let me take my studies seriously as well, while getting the same amount of support as uni rugby.”

If he continues to show his current impressive levels of dominance up front throughout the Under-20s Six Nations - as well as when he is involved in BUCS Super Rugby - it won’t be long until Sela catches the headlines.

And it will only add another name to the seemingly endless list of quality players that university rugby has played its part in developing.

Women’s National League

The cancellation of Cardiff Met University vs Durham University meant there was only one game in the WNL this week, but it was a significant one.

Hartpury University’s 76-21 demolition of Cardiff University meant they secured a second WNL league title in as many years, continuing their dominance in the league.

With a home semi-final now secured, they look in a strong position to go on and achieve a third National Championship on the trot.