Rugby Union

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'Super under-20s' opens door for next generation to step up for Brumbies

Budding ACT Brumbies player Jordan Jackson-Hope was juggling bar work with his rugby dreams when Stephen Larkham offered him the opportunity of a lifetime.

Now the Canberra junior wants to repay Larkham's faith by helping the Brumbies Colts make an immediate impact in the newly formed national under-20s series.

At a time when the NRL is trying to wind up its under-20s competition, the Australian Rugby Union launched its junior program designed to develop a new generation of Super Rugby stars.

Five teams have been aligned with the Australian Super Rugby franchises for a six-week tournament around the country giving players such as Jackson-Hope a taste of professional rugby.

Jackson-Hope was working at the National Press Club pouring drinks just a couple of months ago when Larkham called with an offer too good to refuse.

He has now signed a development contract to train with the Brumbies and fast-track his progress.


Larkham sat with Jackson-Hope on the flight to Sydney on Wednesday and analysed the 19-year-old's performance in the Brumbies' pre-season trial against the NSW Waratahs.

"Bernie has just spoken to me about being a local and how special it is. Playing for the Brumbies has always been a dream of mine and it was a dream of his as well," Jackson-Hope said.

"I'm just trying to pick his brains and soak in as much as I can. I'm on a development contract, it's not much [money] but living at home and going to uni I don't need a lot.

"Before Christmas I was balancing training and work ... I'd finish training, go to work until 1am and then be back at training at 6am. I was pretty stoked when Bernie offered me that contract. Training full-time doesn't even feel like work.

"It's awesome to have that foot in the door and on the way. To play in some curtain-raisers and travel around, it gives you a bit of a taste of what's to come and what you're working towards."

The Brumbies Colts will be coached by Russell Ingram and also boast Brumbies full-time contracted player Nick Jooste and powerful prop Tyrel Lomax.

The Colts start their season against NSW team the Gen Blue under-20s as a curtain-raiser to the Brumbies-Waratahs blockbuster on March 4.

"I think it's a really good initiative, it's the next tier down and gives guys a chance, we draw a lot from that age group," said Brumbies coach Larkham.

"There's an under-20s World Cup so it helps them with that and I've got no doubt it will help us. We were very impressed with the way Jordan played [in the trial], it was a great start to his semi-professional career."