1st Year Represents MMU at Bournemouth 7s Festival
Archie Kellett is a 1st Year student at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) who was recently picked to play for England Universities 7s Rugby team in Three Fold National Cup at the Bournemouth 7s festival.
England Universities narrowly lost out on the Plate title due to a loss to HSBC Hong Kong Sevens champions, Apache.
Bournemouth 7s is the UK’s largest rugby 7s festival, and Kellett is one of 12 students, hand-picked by English Universities Sport (EUS) out of every 7s-playing university in England, travelling to compete. Kellett said his team included players from Bath, Nottingham, Manchester, and Manchester.
This is a massive achievement for a young, aspiring player.
Kellett was obviously delighted to hear the good news, as this is a big step forward in his sporting career; "I think it’s every rugby lad’s dream to play rugby and when you’re younger, you look at it like ‘that’s all I want to do’.”
That’s not to say he wasn’t anxious about playing in the big leagues, and he knew he’d likely be one of the smaller and more inexperienced players on the pitch.
Kellett described meeting his new teammates as “like the first day of school’ - no-one’s talking, it’s a bit awkward, but we had a night to get to know each other and talk about tactics and stuff and then we were straight into it on Friday morning.”
Coach Rob Jones also said: “from outside looking in, they all got on really well, they hung out with one another, they had each other’s backs on the pitch”, so it seems Archie’s worries about finding his place were quickly diminished.
When asked about his past 7s experience he said: "Really not much, probably a few games at high school which was a while ago. And then when I was at Sale we’d do 7s in training to improve your skills and fitness, but really not too much. It was really good to get some experience under my belt before Bournemouth.”
Sale Sharks are Manchester’s premiership rugby team, and MMU work closely with them in recruiting players, like Kellett, seeking a career in professional rugby.
Kellett had also played for MMU in the BUCS Rugby 7s Trophy Championship in May at West Park Leeds RUFC, where he and his team got as far as the Quarter Final before being knocked out by Loughborough University.
Though not much, his previous experience in 7s has taught him a lot about his role in the team and what’ll be expected of him this weekend; “you’ve just got to be there and not let your quality drop, especially at the level it’ll be at at Bournemouth, it’ll be really competitive but I don’t want to not show up; I’m there for a reason.”
And that reason was to prove to himself and everyone watching that he deserves a long-term place in the professional rugby scene.
The competition split the teams into 4 groups, the top 2 from which would go through to the Cup play-offs, the team that placed third went through to the Plate play-offs, and last place was eliminated.
On the first day, EUS narrowly missed out on the Cup and instead went through to the Plate. Kellett said: “We should have gone through to the Cup because Danny’s kick went over but for some reason they said that it didn’t and we went into the Plate.”
When Jones spoke about the first day, he said: “He (Kellett) could’ve won us the first game, that ended up being a draw, with some great vision [and a] chip and chase - the dead ball area’s 2 meters long, had that been 3 meters or 2.1 meters he’d have scored it.” Perhaps the first-day nerves got to Archie a bit at first.
The second day saw EUS win their Semi-Final match and “[give] Apache a really good go in the final but just narrowly lost out.” Kellett said “we’d have liked to have won but we were definitely happy with the end result.”
For Kellett, the whole experience was ‘weird’ and ‘definitely exceeded [his] expectations’. He was ‘blown away by the intensity and the speed of everything’ and felt he left the competition with more to give, but seemed assured he’d done enough to gain the the respect he deserved; “They didn’t see me as just another body, they thought ‘he does have something to offer’, which is all I wanted.”
So what’s next for MMU’s rising rugby star? Pre-season for next year’s rugby 15s season is looming and Jones says: “that tournament would have given him the confidence to now know he can play 7s - there are more levels, you know, you’ve got the national team there… and if he keeps going, representing the university again, goes to trial again, he’ll get seen.”
And beyond that, a career in professional is not out of reach for young Kellett, after hearing stories from other players at Bournemouth, he said: “travelling the world playing 7s doesn’t sound like a bad life so if that’s something I could get myself into I definitely wouldn’t be complaining.”
Well played and best of luck, Archie.