BEN Howard has set his sights on becoming a Sixways centurion after putting pen to paper on his first senior contract.

Alongside fellow academy graduate Max Stelling, who was yesterday named in the England under 20s squad for the Six Nations, Howard pledged his future to Warriors last week.

The youngsters’ contracts came hot on the heels of new deals for first team regulars Chris Pennell and Alex Grove, who both progressed through the club’s youth system and have since gone on to make more than 100 appearances.

Howard said: “Chris is my immediate mentor and you look at the way he has been playing this year and it’s a great inspiration for me to not only see that he has committed his future to the club but also learning directly from him every day.

“Chris and Alex are two senior guys who have taken the path as I am taking now and it is great to see them wanting to stay at the club.

“Being here in six or seven years’ time, playing over 100 matches, is something I definitely aspire to achieve.”

The 2013 IRB Junior World Championship-winner added: “Warriors is the right place to be, especially for me to keep progressing as a rugby player and hopefully I can start playing more for the first team.

“One of the main reasons for me staying is because of the direction in which the club is going. It may be slow progress at the moment but you can definitely see the plan that Dean Ryan and the other coaches have highlighted.

“Every time I play I’m learning, I’m improving and I’m being exposed to new situations. I want to keep learning from the guys above me and I think this is the place to do that.”

Howard added: “It’s got to be my aim to be putting pressure on Chris and to take opportunities when I get them.

“I’ve got a long way to go in terms of the player I want to be and it’s time to knuckle down, keep improving and in the near future hopefully I can start playing regularly for the first team.

“Getting a first team contract is what every player who is coming through the academy wants. I’m delighted I’ve been given the opportunity and I’m looking forward to the next few years.

“This club means a lot to me. I joined straight out of school so it’s all I have known since. I’ve made some close friends, not just the players but people around the club, and I love it here.”