Saffron Walden Rugby Club can proudly say they have their first England international after Joseph Gaffan took to the field in the famous white shirt for the first time.

He played for the U18 squad against Italy at Loughborough and while it ended in a disappointing loss, Gaffan walked away with his side's man of the match award.

After first picking up a rugby ball with Wendons Ambo before moving on to Saffron Walden ,the journey to his first cap has been a tortuous one.

In late October 2019 he ruptured the ACL in his left knee and for a period it looked as though his promising career would end before it truly began.

But after consultation with his club, Northampton Saints, the decision was taken to go under the knife at the Fortuis Clinic in Marylebone.

He also had help from James Neals, physio at Rugby School, where Gaffan went for sixth form after his time at Saffron Walden County High, and within 10 months of surgery, he was back in full training.

Playing at Northampton allowed him to participate in sessions through the pandemic before starting academy league fixtures in April.

Proud dad Neil, also the head coach at Saffron Walden, said: "Joseph represented himself extremely well during all of these matches and this was clearly where he was noticed by the England selectors.

"He was then invited to a selection weekend ahead of the week's training camp and managed to be selected in the back-row for the game against Italy U19s.

"He was also awarded the honour of being vice-captain and it Sunday was a monumental occasion for our family and a true reflection of Joseph's energy, tenacity and ability."

Saffron Walden meanwhile put in a strong showing in their first pre-season friendly, losing 14-7 to Bishop's Stortford.

Their squad contained a mix of first and second-team players, they also fielded six youngsters against a Stortford team from a few divisions above.

The home side led 14-0 at the break but Walden improved further on the restart and were rewarded with a well-worked move and Mark Kimberley try.

They almost levelled things up but a score from Vili Navia was pulled back by the referee.

However, the performance visibly boosted the confidence of the side, valuable for the weeks ahead.