RUGBY has been a passion at Heathfield Community School, in Taunton, for many years thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment initially of John Cooling and now Andrew Fielding, who joined the staff over 30 years ago and has inherited the mantle as head of rugby, writes Richard Walsh.

Over the years Heathfield has produced a number of rugby players who have gone on to play at the highest level.

However, for all these youngsters to achieve their potential they have had to move away from Taunton, something which Fielding has felt strongly about.

“We have a lot of talent at the school but everything came to a sticking point at the age of 16 because there was nowhere for them to go,” Fielding said.

Currently five former Heathfield students have had to move away from home to take advantage of an opportunity to develop their game to the highest level.

“The only thing that I have ever wanted was for lads from this area - South and West Somerset - to get the opportunity to play the best rugby that they are capable of,” Fielding added.

“What we desperately need is for young rugby players to have the opportunity to live that dream, and Richard Huish College and Bristol Bears have now put that into place.”

Fielding has been recruited by Chris Heal, the director of rugby at Richard Huish College, to become part of that team that will help to deliver the dream to rugby-playing youngsters, while still living at home with their families.

“I have got on board with this development and I’m really enthusiastic about the opportunity that it can offer,” said Fielding.

“What we are now looking at is the transition between Years 10 and 11, and liaising into Richard Huish and their AASE College status.

“This link between Huish and Bristol Bears excites me because it gives more students the opportunity to reach their potential, without having to travel long distances, which involves a considerable amount of finance, time and commitment from their parents.

He added: “The rugby talent is here in Taunton, but up until now - after the age of 16 - they have had to go to either Bath or Exeter Chiefs to develop it.

“Now, however, they can stay living locally with the support of their families.

“This is a great development for young rugby players living in South and West Somerset, and I can’t wait to it to get started.”


FORMER Taunton Rugby player Sam Skinner started in the second row for Scotland as they hammered Italy 52-10 in the Six Nations on Saturday.

The versatile forward, who plays his club rugby for Exeter Chiefs after spending a season at Taunton in 2013/14, remains in the squad for Friday's match away to France, as does former Millfield School student Huw Jones.

Jones is one of several Old Millfieldians to have played a part in this year’s Six Nations, alongside Adam Hastings (Scotland), Rhys Ruddock (Ireland), Callum Sheedy (Wales) and Mako Vunipola (England).