I sat down and talked rugby union and particularly rugby 7s with Max Ashcroft. He started by explaining the impact playing rugby and meeting people has had on him.
“In 2008 I was selected to play for North of England in the England 16s Festival at Broadstreet Rugby Club; essentially an England Under 16s Final Trial. The players around me included a great mate, Ben Vernon, George Ford, Ben Morris, Charlie Clare and Andy Davies. All still playing rugby at the highest standard.
Two years later and it was North of England 18s and a trip to West Park Leeds in the company of Josh Beaumont, Will Addison, Ross Harrison and school friend Austin Halewood. During that tournament I would play against Kyle Sinkler and Will Spencer.
From this background I headed to Bath Rugby Academy and Bath University. This introduced me to Will Skuse, Nathan Catt, Mark Lilley, Guy Mercer, Dave Attwood, Matt Banahan, Kane Palmer-Newport and Tom Dunn; plus many others.
I am now with a great club, Sedgley Park and at its heart there is a great bunch of lads who I consider to be mates. At whatever level and wherever I have played, I have been fortunate to meet some wonderful people. Making friends in rugby is with me for life”
I asked Max more about his experiences in rugby and rugby 7s; “I set up a 7s team to go to the Heineken Kinsale 7s in 2011. The squad was made up of 10 players, 8 of us from Bath, Mike Pope from Exeter University and Matt Mahon from Tarleton Rugby Club.”
On Day 1, they beat the Dutch National 7s team but on Day 2 were to lose out to the Irish Wolfhounds. The after party was one never to be forgotten and as the coach of North Wales Exiles, Marcus Copeland would say, “everyone should play 7s at least once in Kinsale “
The experience led to more tournaments including Bournemouth 7s, Skofic7s, Chester7s and this year’s RFU 24/7s. It seems as you look at the archive pages of Talking Rugby Union, you see images of Max’s rugby playing friends representing RedPanda7s and others. The original concept of RedPanda7s was to provide a professional showcase for talented rugby players. The team is coached by Durham University’s Alex Keay and managed by MMU’s Rob Jones with Max and his business partner Max Skofic focussed on Talent ID and after parties.
RedPanda7s seem to be able to spot rugby talent and as this snapshot of their alumni shows they have impressive credentials:
Mike Pope, Cornish Pirates
Harrison Collins, Esher and Newcastle Falcons
Simon Hammersley, Newcastle Falcons and England Saxons
Mike Haley, Sale Sharks and England
Tom Whiteley, Saracens
Ruaridh McConnochie, England & Team GB
Freddie Clarke, Gloucester and Rotherham Titans
Dan Grange, Rotherham Titans
Matt Walsh, Rotherham Titans
With apologies to all those other players who have represented RedPanda and PridePassionParty.