We’re onto Group Six, and the Hampton’s Greatest Sporting Moments competition is heating up. This piece recounts 1998, where two Hamptonians were selected to travel to Australia with the England U18s. This will compete against three other moments in Group Six. Vote in our Twitter poll on Friday to decide your favourite moments – the winner will progress to the quarter-final stage!
In competitive sport, many are called (as the Old Testament tersely puts it), but few are chosen. Or to put it another way, the path from an outstanding career as a junior to an outstanding career at full international level is paved with good intentions. But there are no guarantees. Take one example: when the England Under 18 footballers won the 1993 European championships, David Beckham wasn’t in the team, and the captain was Darren Caskey. It just goes to show.
The England Under 18 rugby team of 1998 was the exception to prove the rule. A more distinguished collection of future stars can rarely if ever have pulled on a junior international shirt. Among the players in that team to graduate to the full England team over the next few years were David Flatman, Tom May, Andrew Sheridan, Lee Mears, Ian Balshaw, Steve Borthwick, Alex Sanderson, royal husband Mike Tindall and rugby royalty himself Jonny Wilkinson.
Also in the mix were two Hampton boys: Simon Amor and Mr Andy Beattie. Simon went on to a distinguished career playing, among others, for London Irish, Gloucester, Wasps and London Scottish before representing England at sevens and then building a career as a coach that led to the Olympics in 2016 and now the full England side where he is currently Attack Coach. Andy took his talents to the west country, where he played over 50 games for Exeter Chiefs and more than 200 for Bath, appeared in the Premiership final of 2004 and was capped by England A. Now – full circle – Beattie is back at Hampton, coaching the game he graced in a professional career of fifteen years.
Back to 1998, and the star-studded England Under 18 team in which these two Hamptonians played their part: a grand slam in what was then the five nations (beating France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) was followed by a tour of Australia, whose Under 18 team had future stars of their own, including Phil Waugh as captain and flanker, soon to win the first of his 79 Wallaby caps at senior level. Once again, the England juniors played their way through an unbeaten tour – of six weeks – suggesting that this England team may have been among the best junior sides ever to wear the white shirt.
The senior team, by the way, were also in Australia in the summer of 1998, losing 76 – 0. So you could say there were gaps to be filled.
Both Amor and Beattie would go on to enjoy a prosperous professional career: Amor spent 12 years in the professional game – including five with England Sevens – before coaching Team GB to Olympic Silver at Rio in 2016; Beattie was with Exeter and later Bath for 15 years.
By Mr Peter Smith, Teacher i/c, Hampton Sports Chronicle