The England Community Lions programme has new coaches helming the Under 16's set up for the next two years.
Stepping into the head coach role is Latchford Albion boss Martyn Ellis who moves up from being an assistant to previous Under 16's head coach Tom Wood.
A proud Ellis said, "I'm the head coach for the next two years going forward. I thought the time was right for me to step up and take on this role."
Ellis is no stranger to representative rugby. "I coached Lionheart's tours and then went on to the GB Teachers for a couple of years and I became involved in the Lions program as a development coach. I then helped with all the Under 18's trials before the Under 16's assistant role came up with Tom Wood. I jumped at it when he asked me, I progressed from there. I went on to do parts with the Under 23s and then enjoyed the two games against Wales Dragonhearts, home and away. Then I was involved again at the end of the season, taking some of the open-age trials. I enjoyed every minute."
Revealing more about his background, Martyn added, "I've been at Latchford since 2019 and we hit Covid in between but got promoted in 2021 with a very young squad and we've been in the Premier Division of the North West Men's League for the last two years. We've competed to be fair, it's been tough. Don't get me wrong, we've lost players through bad injuries or work and different stuff, but then we've always pulled through, and it's a credit to our junior section."
Speaking of the Under 16 age group, Ellis said, "They're all at an age where they're playing at clubs or trying to get a scholarship and they are also going through exams and all kinds. We're picking players who are talented and trialing them. We're then giving them an opportunity to represent their country and play rugby and hopefully developing them into good people as well."
The Lions also confirmed the appointments of Rich Garbutt and Jon Mann, expanding their involvements from this year and Ellis was really happy with the calibre of both men.
"Rich does scholarship at Castleford Tigers. Rich came on the programme last year with me, and he's got a lot of experience. I know he's just been over to Australia to go and see a lot of grounds over there and how the training facilities and teams work. He's taken a lot of knowledge from that. Jon has already worked with the 19s, 18s, and 17s over the past year on the programme, so he knows what it's about. I'm really looking forward to working with him and seeing where we go. It's exciting."
Similarly to Garbutt, Mann, whose previous experience includes a spell with Newton Storm and more lately, Pilkington Recs, joined the Lions programme as a development coach.
Several dates and locations have been penciled in for Lions trials for Under 16's and Under 17's, including:
Cumbria - Saturday 27th January - St Benedict’s School Whitehaven – U16 - 10.00 am – 12.00 pm, U17 – 12.00 pm – 2.00 pm.
Yorkshire – Sunday 4th February – Siddal – U16 – 9.00 am – 11.30 am, U17 – 11.30 am – 2.00 pm.
North West – Saturday 17th February – Pilkington Recs – U16 – 12.00 pm – 2.00 pm, U17 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm.
A Southern trial may also be held in February which will be confirmed shortly.
Trial games will then follow on a Saturday in March when there will be 60 players picked for both age groups.
Following on from the trial games, a 20-player squad will be selected to train at Under 16's for the Four Nations Tournament and at Under 17's to play two games against France.
Clubs are asked to keep an eye on their emails over the next couple of weeks for details of how to nominate players.
Photo Credit: Ben Challis