Promising young fly-half Ben Burnell has become the newest member of the Jersey Reds' squad.
The 20-year-old arrives on the Island as Reds’ Director of Rugby Harvey Biljon looks to enhance the reputation of the RFU Championship in general, and Jersey in particular, as a platform for players bound for the top-flight.
Having started playing rugby from the age of seven at Llantwit Fardre, near Pontypridd, Burnell played for Pontypridd Schools at under-11 and under-15 levels, winning the Welsh Schools title in 2018 as his side defeated Llanelli Schools to claim the Dewar Shield.
Having played age group rugby for Cardiff Rugby (formerly Cardiff Blues), Burnell signed his first academy contract with the region at the age of 16 during the 2018/19 season. National honours also followed, with appearances for Wales u18 and then, in July 2021 his u20 debut in the Six Nations win over Scotland.
In the past season-and-a-half Burnell has played Indigo Group Premiership rugby for both Cardiff RFC and Pontypridd, as well as making his senior regional debut for Cardiff Rugby in the friendly match against Bristol Bears last November (pictured above).
Biljon said: “Ben has been on our radar for at least a year and is a player with an impressive skill-set who we think has the potential to develop over the next year or two.
“He’s got some big boots to fill when you think we had players like Kieran Hardy and Callum Sheedy who came to Jersey at a similar age and went on to play for Wales a few years later, but that’s the sort of opportunity we want a young player to relish.”
Burnell will be the latest member of the Reds’ squad with strong links to Cardiff. Stalwart forward Macauley Cook, born in Church Village, near Pontypridd, made 167 appearances for the region, and his former team-mate Tom Williams is now Assistant Coach for the Reds.
The new signing comes from a rugby family, with his father Justin being a former player and current Director of Rugby for ‘Ponty’ as part of two decades in coaching that also included spells in the RFU Championship with London Welsh and Rotherham Titans.
Biljon said he hoped Burnell would settle in quickly in order to be considered for selection during the Reds’ trio of Championship Cup matches in February: home ties with Ealing Trailfinders (this Saturday) and Nottingham (Friday 17th) either side of a trip to Hartpury on Friday 10th.
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