Tigers Academy back-rower Henri Lavin will this weekend make his England U18 debut after a breakthrough season which has seen the 17-year-old not only feature prominently in the undefeated, championship-winning Leicester side but also make both his A League and Anglo-Welsh Cup debuts.
The blind-side flanker missed out initially on selection in the national squad but, after a back-to-back appearances for Tigers Development XV in the Premiership A League competition, was called in to the English squad for the upcoming Six Nations Festival which kicks off on Saturday in Wales.
However, according to Leicester Tigers Academy Manager Dave Wilks, all may not have been just over 18 months ago when the Leicester local was plying his trade as an outside-back without a true sense of which position was the one for him.
“He’s one of the boys who could have easily dropped out of the group around 16, not really having a position and playing a bit at centre and on the wing, before we moved him in to the back-row,” Wilks told LeicesterTigers.com after Lavin was called in to the national squad.
Midlands born and bred, Lavin came through caught the eye of Tigers through the Staffordshire DPP before being invited to join the Leicester Tigers Academy after the move from outside-back to back-row in a U16s Festival.
While the position may not have yet been a certainty, Wilks admits that the youngster did possess something vital for any player looking to pursue a life in the professional game.
“What he did have was a massive amount of coach-ability and brought intensity to whatever he did,” said Wilks.
Lavin has been named among the replacements for England’s tournament opener against Scotland on Saturday afternoon, which his club coach says is a just reward for the hard-work he has put in.
“It’s a great opportunity for him to go and prove himself at that level and he deserves this chance to show what he can do,” Wilks said, before adding, “He has worked really hard, on the pitch and in the gym, to find his position and that’s his character.”
“He’s a grafter, he’s a winner and cares passionately about what he does, his team mates and this club.”Academy Manager Dave Wilks
Fellow Tigers youngster George Martin, who was a try-scorer in Tigers Academy Grand Final win over Gloucester, will start in the second-row for England and Lavin’s mateship shone through when asked about the chance to line-up in his England debut with a fellow Leicester squad member.
“That will be a special moment. We’re close mates, it will be a really good feeling to play at this level with him,” Lavin said.
When pressed for comment on how it felt for him personally, the humble Lavin did crack and admit that the recognition from selectors was a ‘special moment’ for him before reverting straight back to his beloved club.
“I feel really honoured, it’s the first time for it and a really special moment,” he said with a smile.
“It is nice to see hard working paying off and getting international recognition, as well as continuing to try my best for my club here at Leicester.”
Click here to see the England squad named for Saturday’s tournament opener against Scotland in Wales.