This weekend saw the second round of the LV= Cup. A competition renowned for developing some of the best young talent with many Clubs using it as a chance to give their young stars exposure.
This weekend Mike Stanton travelled to Adams Park for Wasps v London Irish. Both sides fielded three senior Academy players in their starting line-ups.
In a game that finished 43 – 22 to Wasps, it was the host’s young fly-half and Alex Lozowski who stole the show. Kicking 23 points, setting up two of Wasps’ four tries and picking up the man-of-the-match award, the fly half was the stand out performer.
His metronomic kicking display, including two penalties from just inside his own half, was matched by the variety in both his attacking play and tactical kicking.
Throughout the first half the stand-off looked threatening. Whether it was fizzing passes along the line, cutting angles or halting Irish attacks with big tackles his first half performance caught the eye of many in the crowd.
However, in the second half his attacking flair came to the fore. As the game began to brake up he set up two tries. The first, minutes into the second period saw him step the defenders before bursting through the gap and floating a pass outside for Josh Basset to score in the corner.
His second assist of the day came in the final play of the game. Pouncing on a turnover in the shadow of his own posts, Lozowski showed his pace to sprint 80 meters up field to put Elliot Daley away.
The Wasps fly-half wasn’t the only youngster to impress however. London Irish started three of their senior Academy; Cameron Cowell who started last week against Leicester, and Ross Neal and Ollie Curry picked up their first starts for the senior side.
Starting at blind side flanker, Ollie Curry is one to watch for the future, At aged just 18, physically he was arguably one of the biggest on the park. Throughout the game he impressed with his physicality in the tackle area and his work at the lineouts, stealing multiple Wasps’ throws – he also chucked in a few offloads the great Kieran Reid would have been happy with.
Despite this it was his communication and leadership that stood out for me. Although one of the youngest in the starting line up he looked in his element geeing up the pack and motivating the side.
On a day where the Irish wings saw little of the ball, Cameron Cowell still produced one moment of magic. Easily on of the smaller players today what the winger lacks in size he more than makes up for in pace and agility.
It was his break in fact that laid the platform for a Leo Halavatau try for Irish. A sudden burst of pace and a dazzle of footwork saw the Exiles’ flyer streak away from the defence, catching both Wasps and many supporters off guard as an air of amazement filled Adams Park at the sheer pace of the winger. Although finally hauled down just five meters short this burst caught the eye, and with the majority of the congratulations going to him after the try it is clear he is held in high regard by his fellow players.
Ross Neal also impressed. Starting a centre following a late drop out from Guy Armitage the big centre never looked out of place. Again, his strength in the tackle area was most impressive, wining turnovers through his choke tackles and providing a target for his pack to aim for.
As the game progressed he was moved onto the wing, showing that he has pace to go alongside with the physical side of his game, always an exiting combination.
The LV= Cup gives an opportunity for young players to play alongside and against full-time professionals. It is an exciting competition and a chance to see the potential future stars strut their stuff.
Although sometimes it is seen as the poor relation to the Premiership and the European competitions I believe it is still worth its weight in gold for the development of these young players, players like Johnny May and Jack Nowell who first dazzled us in the completion.
And as an avid rugby fan it is a great opportunity to see the youngsters of our beloved game. A chance to see what the future hold, and from the performances I have witnessed over the past couple of weeks; the future is most definitely bright.