Fantastic five are given opportunity of a lifetime

The fantastic five, from left to right: Freddie Hooper, Jacob Poulton, Alex Wilcockson, Charlie Howard and Cameron Prentice
The fantastic five, from left to right: Freddie Hooper, Jacob Poulton, Alex Wilcockson, Charlie Howard and Cameron Prentice
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

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Chris Dossett has congratulated his ‘fantastic’ five.

The Portsmouth Grammar School director of sport toasted the progress of a quintet of his rugby talents after they won the ‘extraordinary’ opportunity to tour Zimbabwe with the Barbarians.

Eighteen-year-olds Freddie Hooper, Charlie Howard, Alex Wilcockson and Cameron Prentice, and Jacob Poulton, 17, have all been invited to fly out next month for the first tour of its kind since the political unrest in the country began.

And Dossett reckons it is a remarkable feat – by both the players and the school.

He said: ‘This is a fantastic achievement for each of our players personally and for the school generally.

‘To have one pupil selected for this elite squad is fantastic but to have five – an eighth of the squad – is exceptional and they are all to be congratulated.

‘The chance to play in Zimbabwe on the first schools tour there is an extraordinary and unique opportunity. ’

The significance of the tour – which includes a game against a side from the local black population and one against the national team – is not lost on prop Poulton, who is preparing to jet out on April 7.

‘The situation in Zimbabwe is delicate but I personally believe this is a wonderful opportunity to experience a different environment and not one to pass up,’ he said.

‘We are very excited by the prospect.’

Fly-half Wilcockson echoed his team-mate’s words.

And he explained it was extra special to be given the opportunity alongside his Portsmouth Grammar School friends.

He said: ‘I’m really excited about travelling somewhere as different as Zimbabwe.

‘It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.

‘I was pleased five of us were invited to join the Barbarians, too – somehow it makes it seem much more of an achievement.’

The quintet have already turned out twice for the 40-strong independent schools’ national side.

They helped smash the Irish Exiles at Lytham St Anne’s by a 50-point margin and narrowly lost to the Welsh Crawshays by four points at Port Talbot.

Their next fixture is against Cobham, last season’s under-17 national club champions.

Three of the boys have played for their country and trialled for the London & South East division.

Chris Terry, chair of the Barbarians, said: ‘We have been invited by the schools authority of the Zimbabwe Rugby Union to play four games, which includes one game against a team made up of the local black population and the national side.

‘As intrepid tourists, we like the idea of being the first UK schools team back into Zimbabwe.

‘Zimbabwe does not attract the nicest of publicity.

‘Reading, seeing and listening to the media, you’d form the impression normal life does not exist there and although life there is not as it once was, it does go on.’

In what is shaping up to be a busy summer, some of the five will return to Africa in the summer on the school’s multi-sports tour for senior boys and girls.