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In-Depth: Powell preparing for school return after ‘surreal’ summer

While his classmates indulge in the rest and recuperation of the school holidays, Charlie Powell’s summer has taken a very different course.

The 17-year-old back, who in just over two weeks time will begin his final year at Bristol Grammar School, has swapped summer fun and frolics for the gruelling labours of pre-season after being invited into the professional set-up by head coach, Pat Lam.

It’s meant sacrifice and a bit of stick from his friends, but the Academy U18 star insists he wouldn’t have had it any other way during what he describes as a ‘surreal’ summer.

“I was planning on just doing my normal U18s training this summer, which is about two or three times a week, but pretty early in the summer I was called into train full-time with the first team boys, so it’s been quite a surreal experience,” said Powell, who grew up playing for Thornbury RFC.

Powell in action during the pre-season clash with Bath at Clifton RFC (JMP UK).

“It’s been full on, it’s five times a week with weekends off but I’ve enjoyed it and I think I’ve coped all right.

“My whole family are really supportive but they can’t really believe it either. They are the ones who have put me in this position by taking me to all of my training sessions, so they are enjoying it as well.

“My friends laugh about it, they ask if I can come out and I’ll tell them I’ve got rugby and then they ask the next day and I give the same answer.

“I haven’t managed to see them as much as I was planning to, but they’re all really supportive and happy for me. They love it and they love watching me play, but they do give me plenty of stick about it.”

“There have obviously been a few sacrifices this summer, but it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity and for what I’m getting back.

“If you told me even a month ago that I’d be putting on the first team jersey this summer, I’d have said you were lying.”

Charlie Powell

“To be in this environment and plugging away at this, it’s been amazing. When you’re younger, you look up to the Bristol players and I remember David Lemi doing a talk at Bristol Grammar School - it’s just surreal to think that I’m now training alongside him.

“I’m a number 13 by trade, so Jack Tovey was always someone I looked up to when I was younger. It’s amazing to be able to train and talk to him about the game and I’m learning a lot from people like Jack.”

An impressive showing on the training paddock saw Powell selected for Bristol’s opening two pre-season fixtures against Harlequins and Bath, which included an eye-catching assist for Tom Varndell in August’s derby clash at Clifton.

His senior Bristol debut capped a memorable couple of months for the schoolboy prodigy and Powell is now keen to showcase what he has learnt when he steps back into age-group rugby.

Charlie Powell looks on before his senior debut against Harlequins at Cleve RFC (JMP UK).

“If you told me even a month ago that I’d be putting on the first team jersey this summer, I’d have said you were lying,” he said.

“It’s been completely unreal and I wouldn’t have thought it would happen so soon.

“I’ll be going back into the U18s setup when school starts so I look forward to playing age group and schoolboy rugby again this year.

“I’m looking forward to hopefully passing on some of what I have learned this summer when I go back to school and I’m excited to try and be a leader in that environment – so taking on that role that will help my development as well.”

Attention will soon turn to the classroom as Powell prepares for his final year at Bristol Grammar School – and the youngster, who is targeting a Junior Academy contract next summer, won’t be taking anything for granted.

“It’s my second and last year of Sixth Form, so I’ve got a lot of exams coming up, but if I keep working hard in the classroom and on the pitch, hopefully things will pan out nicely.

“I’m not taking anything for granted and I’m fully focused on everything this academic year will throw at me, on and off the pitch.”