Carroll scoops top player accolade

TOP PLAYER. Gabriel Carroll took the youth honours at the Eastern Counties presentation night
TOP PLAYER. Gabriel Carroll took the youth honours at the Eastern Counties presentation night

GABRIEL Carroll has been named the outstanding youth player in Eastern Counties rugby. The Sudbury and England youth flanker picked up the Norman Potter Cup at the Counties’ annual dinner on Friday.

The 18-year-old St Joseph’s College pupil has enjoyed a highly successful school and international season – reaching the semi-final of the Daily Mail Cup with his school, and making successful appearances with England at under-18 level.

Carroll, from Boxford, one of a crop of promising young Eastern Counties players, said the award came “as a bit of a shock”.

“There are a lot of good players at under-17 and under-16,” he said. “We had a good evening together, and it was even better to take an award at the end of it.”

Carroll, who made his England under-18 debut in a 38-10 win over Ireland at Merchant Taylor’s School in Middlesex in April, coming on as a 46th-minute substitute, will be taking a year out of education prior to going to Loughborough University to study sports science and play university rugby.

But he insists it is not a gap year. He will be turning out for his home club during the first half of next season before going to Auckland, New Zealand after Christmas in a bid to further his rugby education.

“I am trying to push my rugby on, and want to play for a club on the North Island. I want to learn and experience the culture out there where rugby is a way of life,” he said.

He has not yet found a club, but coaches at both St Joseph’s and England have contacts out there and are helping him.

Carroll, who was released by the Northampton Saints Academy at the end of last season, still harbours ambitions of turning professional. “That’s always been my ambition,” he said. “Playing for England and at Northampton I have always loved the professional environment.”

But for now, once his exams are over, he aims to find a job for a few months to earn some money before going to New Zealand, and make a return to his first club, having started out at Sudbury at 11 when the family moved from Ireland.

“But I was picked up by St Joes at 14, and Sudbury sort of went on the back burner,” he said. “I will do pre-season training with them, and hopefully play a few games, although playing men’s rugby will be quite a step up.”