Leeds Carnegie: Loan star Bell’s relishing England U-20s bow

ROCK SOLID: Tommy Bell celebrates his match-winning kick against London Scottish last month. The talented loanee is set to make his England Under-20s debut against Italy. PIC: Steve Riding
ROCK SOLID: Tommy Bell celebrates his match-winning kick against London Scottish last month. The talented loanee is set to make his England Under-20s debut against Italy. PIC: Steve Riding
Have your say

Variety is proving the spice of life for talented Leeds Carnegie loan star Tommy Bell.

The Devonian, 19, who signed a season long-loan with Carnegie from Sale Sharks at the start of the current campaign, has proved a revelation during his time at Headingley – in an unaccustomed position, to boot.

Handed a chance at full-back, Bell, a regular fly-half during his teens, has not been found wanting, with his sensational form at ‘15’ earning him a call-up ahead of England Under-20s’ clash with Italy in Rovigo this evening.

Click here to register and have your say on the Leeds Carnegie stories and issues that matter to you

Ironically, despite his exploits at full-back this term, Plymouth-born Bell is back at ‘ten’ for his Under-20s bow tonight, with Carnegie flanker Chris Walker skippering a side which also sees club mate Dominic Barrow start at blindside flanker.

But expect the dual-purpose teenager, who has scored 196 Championship points for Carnegie this term, including all the points in the recent home win over Bedford Blues, to return to full-back on his return from international business.

On life at ‘15’, Bell said: “I’ve learnt a lot at full-back, which is a pretty new position for me. It’s broadened my understanding of the game from different positions.

“I had previously liked the idea of playing full-back without really getting the chance before. At the start of the season, we got an injury and it gave me a go at full-back. I did okay and then got the opportunity the next week and it went from there.

“I feel with each game there, I’m getting better and better and it’s a position I quite like now and feel quite confident. I feel I’m well equipped at ten and full-back now.”

And on his enriching time at Carnegie thus far, Bell, who will miss the rearranged scheduled Championship trip to face Nottingham at Meadow Lane on Sunday, added: “The opportunity to come to Leeds was massive and straightaway, I had no hesitation in making the move to a club like Leeds. We’ve grown as a team as well this year and personally, everything has gone great for me.

“Playing week-in, week-out at a decent standard is definitely making me a better player. I’ve really benefited from playing alongside some experienced players in the backline such as Michael Stephenson, Lee Blackett and Scott Barrow and I’ve learnt a lot from time on a day-to-day basis in training.

“It’s really important when you are young to play at the highest level you can.”

While Bell has been afforded plenty of domestic highs this season, with the goalkicker the last-gasp hero in tense home victories of the likes of London Scottish and Moseley, the international sphere calls this evening by way of his Under-20s debut.

Having handled big-game pressure consummately this term and impressed many with his decision-making and composed kicking, it’s a fair bet that Bell won’t be found wanting with the talented starlet fully acclimatised with pressure situations after his experiences with Carnegie.

And Bell is also confident he will prosper in what promises to be a big seasonal run-in, both for him and Carnegie.

He said: “Getting my Under-20s debut is a big thrill. I’ve played for Under-18s and had a year out last year and am now in the Under-20s squad as I’m too old for the 18s.

“It’s been a big goal of mine and it’s been a case of pushing on with Leeds and hoping that call would come at some point and now I’ve got my chance and it’s up to me to take it.

“We had a great performance against Scotland (last week) and it’s up to the team to keep things rolling.

“We’ve got a strong squad of 32 and there’s a lot of good players to fill people’s shoes in each position and I’m just delighted to get picked.

“I’m confident I’ll cope. At Leeds this season, we’ve experienced those pressure moments and have won in difficult situations and shown we can handle ourselves. Play-off games don’t tend to be won by 10 or 20 points and we’ve won through in many where it’s been a dogfight at the end and that should stand us in good stead.

“We’re a young squad, but we’re getting better and better and have bought into what Diccon (Edwards) is trying to do and growing and learning so much.

“Hopefully, at play-off time, we’ll have all that experience and knowledge to enable us to cope with all those other experienced teams. We’ve shown that by beating the likes of Cornish Pirates and Bristol at home and it’s given us confidence.”

Darren Atkins

Moment of magic by Atkins sees off Dragons