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Ex-Gosport & Fareham colt Joe Batley is being tipped for the top by his old rugby mentor Simon Burns.

Batley is expected to start for England under-18s in their FIRA/AER final against Ireland in Poznan, Poland, tomorrow.

The Gloucester Academy second-row forward has already figured in wins over Portugal (62-5) and Wales (11-9) in qualifying games this week.

And Burns, who has just left his post as director of rugby at United Services after a three-year stint, has no doubts Batley can go on and be a force in the senior England set-up.

‘I’ve known Joe since he played in the under-10s at Gosport and coached him in the under 13s,’ said Burns.

‘Back then he was a big, lumbering lad with potential.

‘But he is one of those players who wants to improve all the time and is prepared to listen.

‘I did some one-to-one sessions with him before he went up to Hartpury College on his agility in the line-out and he went away and worked on it.

‘He is now reaping the rewards of his hard work.

‘I definitely feel he can go all the way and I would even put him in the Martin Johnson mould.

‘He is not even 18 yet and is starting to make an impact in senior rugby. There is still a lot for him to learn but I am sure Gloucester will get that into him.’

Portsmouth-born Batley is in his second and final year of A-levels at Hartpury and this season captained the college side to the the AASE title for a second time at Allianz Park.

Though a member of the Gloucester Academy, he also featured in a number of games for the college’s senior side who won National League division two south.

He was educated at Leesland Junior School and Bay House School in Gosport.

Batley began playing at the age of six at Gosport & Fareham and his rugby mentors, past and present, are his father Rob and Simon Burns – his initial coaches – together with Alan Martinovic and Pete Buxton in the Gloucester set-up at Kingsholm.

In his career, the teenager has represented London & SE under-16s, has captained Gosport & Fareham at age-group level and has led the Hartpury under-18 team this season.

Batley made his initial England under-18 appearances in the wins over Australia Schools (23-3) at Harrow last December, Wales (43-12) at Neath in March and France (18-17) at Dunkirk.

He has also figured at lock, used to play football and still enjoys a kickabout.

Batley said: ‘As a child, I loved watching Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio play.’

It looks, at this rate, as though the youngster will soon be emulating his heroes.