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Rugby union’s rigid academies risk stifling players’ freedom to enthrall

Sam Underhill and Josh Beaumont bypassed the traditional route to the top and their rapid rise and thrilling style highlight the value of treading a different path

Sam Underhill and Josh Beaumont are two young English back-row forwards who have attracted the headlines in the past couple of weeks. Beaumont for winning a place in Eddie Jones’s England squad and Underhill for his performance for Ospreys against Clermont Auvergne in the European Champions Cup. Headlines aside, what unites the two is that they have reached the top level of the game having opted out of the English academy system.

Related: Is Warren Gatland ready to unleash a more expansive Wales on Six Nations? | The Breakdown

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