RORY Brand is hoping that the experience of captaining London Irish at the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s last weekend will provide him with the springboard for a breakthrough season.

The 19-year-old Scotland-born scrum-half, who graduated from Wellington College in Crowthorne last year and joined the Exiles academy, led his side as they took part in Aviva Premiership Rugby’s summer showpiece at Franklin’s Gardens in Northampton.

Irish lost their three matches – 24-10 against Harlequins, 31-10 against Gloucester Rugby, and 28-12 against Northampton Saints – but Brand, who was part of the England Under 20s side that sealed a Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year, is aiming to push on after savouring the opportunity to strut his stuff in the Singha 7s.

“It was an amazing experience, just to play in front of a big crowd and on TV – nothing beats that, especially for a young boy,” said the Exiles youngster, who also featured in the competition in 2015.

“Last year, I felt a bit young, a bit inexperienced, and this year, I’ve had a year playing adult rugby.

“I came in as captain and that was definitely a confidence boost, for the coaches to show their trust in me to lead the side out, and we’re a bit disappointed with the results but at the end of the day, it’s all about experience.

“I think everyone experienced some nerves before, which is obviously quite natural, mixed with excitement just to get out there and put the shirt on, and do the club proud.

“We lost all our games but I think we did ourselves proud and we can go back to the club with our heads held high.

“For this year, I want to start for England U20s, play a few Prem games if I’m lucky – hopefully I can get my chance to pull on a London Irish jersey in the Premiership.

“There’s the A-League, LV=Cup and European games, so there are definitely a lot of opportunities to test myself this year.”

Brand’s development last year, which was also supported by SSE’s Next Generation programme, kicked into overdrive as he spent a year on loan at National League One side Rosslyn Park.

The teenager, who has also spent time with Sale Sharks and rugby league outfit Salford Red Devils, is due to keep playing for Park next season after gaining his first taste of men’s rugby with the London-based club.

Brand said: “The big difference was the physicality.

“As a young boy, you have to not only work on your rugby skills but also your social skills as well because you’re going into that environment with men of different ages, which is quite new to me and it was a challenge at first.

“Doing a year of that was definitely beneficial to me, not only as a rugby player but as a person.”

The SSE Next Generation scheme provides potential stars of the future with financial aid and mentoring from elite athletes, and was a big plus for Brand.

He added: “Not only did it help me with my rugby – it provided a new platform for me to boost my social media skills and better myself as an overall individual.

“It was definitely beneficial.”

Since 2013, SSE is proud to make a difference to young people, their families and their communities, by investing in the future of sporting talent through the SSE Next Generation scheme. Keep up to date @YourSSE.