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Stelling to Max-imise European opportunity
10:30am Friday 18th October 2013 in Sport
THERE are two schools of thought with regard to the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Traditionally, clubs have either seen the competition as a back-door into the following season’s Heineken Cup or, more often, a low-priority tournament used to rest key first-teamers, give game-time to fringe players and blood up-and-coming youngsters.
As far as Worcester are concerned, apart from 2008’s foray to the final were they were beaten by a combination of Bath and referee Christophe Berdos at Gloucester’s Kingsholm stadium, the Sixways club have largely adopted the latter approach.
However, that has not necessarily been a bad thing as many youngsters who have gone on to become Warriors regulars have been exposed to their first taste of senior action against a selection of the minnows of European rugby that populate the competition’s lower echelons.
The next such prospect on the Sixways production line is highly-rated centre Max Stelling, who cut his teeth — and caught the eye — in last season’s Amlin Challenge Cup.
The Birmingham-born back’s Warriors career to date extends to just four off-the-bench appearances in Europe yet, in those fleeting cameos, he has been able to cross the whitewash no less than five times.
Given his chance by Richard Hill, Stelling has clearly impressed new boss Dean Ryan and is likely to be involved in tomorrow’s squad to face Sale Sharks at Sixways as Warriors look to build on the 9-9 draw at Oyonnax last weekend.
“I’ve been pretty happy with my progression so far and I’m looking to get as many first-team games under my belt,” said Stelling.
“I want to keep improving. I think it’s always going to be a case of, if the coaches think I’m ready, they’ll give me a go.
“You learn as you go to an extent. The more you play and the more you know certain situations, the better you can be, so I’ve just got to keep working and get in that team.”
The 19-year-old former Old Swinford Hospital School pupil enjoyed the experience — if not the nature of the result — in France and hopes to feature again this weekend.
He added: “It was really good to go out to France with the team.
“The conditions weren’t great so we had to dig in for the last 10 minutes, but unfortunately they got the penalty.
“I enjoyed being on the pitch, though, and we said afterwards we were really happy with 90 per cent of the things we were doing.
“It was a massive step forward against a team that are hard to beat at home.
“I’m sure tomorrow will be tough. Hopefully, the weather will be a bit kinder for us, but that’s the same for both teams.
“It will definitely be tough as Sale are in good form and I’m sure they’ll put up a good fight.
“I’d love to be involved in any capacity.”
Given what Stelling has shown glimpses of so far in his embryonic career, I wouldn’t bet against him going on to be a Warriors first-team regular in the Aviva Premiership, let alone the Amlin Challenge Cup.
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