FIVE Hereford rugby players will be competing in the Aviva Premiership next term.
Royal Air Force second-row Josh McNally has just joined London Welsh and is among four players at the club with Hereford connections.
McNally has linked up with former Hereford rugby player Nick Scott and twins James and Rob Lewis, who are ex-pupils at Hereford Cathedral School.
Guy Thompson, who is also from Hereford, has signed a new deals with Premiership outfit London Welsh.
But former Worcester Warriors and London Welsh scrum-half Ollie Frost, has decided to quit professional rugby.
McNally, a senior aircraftman, is a former Aylestone School pupil and used to play for Luctonians.
McNally is among 15 new signings for London Welsh, who have just secured promotion back to the Premiership after an exciting Championship play-off success against Bristol over two legs.
“I am really excited to get this opportunity to test myself in the demanding environment of Premiership Rugby and to be joining a club with such a proud history as London Welsh,” said McNally.
“I am extremely grateful to the Royal Air Force for allowing me this opportunity.”
McNally, 23, is based at Royal Air Force Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and in 2012/13 helped Henley Hawks to National League Two South success in his first season at the club.
He was a key component of the Brize Norton side that has been crowned Royal Air Force inter-Station champions for the past two years.
London Welsh head coach Justin Burnell said: “Josh caught my eye last year when we played Henley in a pre-season friendly. He’s 2.01m and 122kg and he really impressed me in that game at Dry Leas.
“When I subsequently spoke to Henley coach Pete Davies he confirmed my assessment of Josh and once I met with him I was confident that he’d fit in to our environment at London Welsh.
“The fact that Josh is joining us from Henley and is based at RAF Brize Norton just serves to further increase strengthen the club’s ever increasing links to Oxford.”
NcNally studied at Herefordshire College of Technology and did recruit training at Royal Air Force Halton and technical training at Royal Air Force Cosford.
Posted to Lincolnshire in 2010, he played for Peterborough in National 3 Midlands. The following season he moved to Spalding where he played a full season.
In 2011, McNally was selected to play for the winning Combined Services Under 23 team against Oxford and Cambridge Under 23s at Twickenham.
McNally was posted to RAF Brize Norton in September 2012 in conjunction with the Royal Air Force Rugby Union Centre of Excellence Scheme.
Later that he was picked to represent the RAF in the inaugural International Defence Rugby Competition in Australia and New Zealand.
In November 2013, he was selected to represent the Combined Services side to play against the BaaBaas in the prestigious annual Remembrance Day fixture.
He began last season by lining up against London Welsh in a friendly at Dry Leas.
Station Commander, Royal Air Force Brize Norton, Group Captain Lushington, said: “This is great news for Josh and for the Royal Air Force. Josh is a talented rugby player and now has a fantastic opportunity to train and develop himself with London Welsh and then to bring that back to his Royal Air Force career and to Royal Air Force Rugby.”
Director of Royal Air Force rugby, group captain Chris Moore said: “The Royal Air Force works hard to attract and recruit good rugby players and will always provide support to help them achieve their ambitions on and off the pitch.
“We look forward to watching Josh develop with London Welsh and hope to see more of our players following a similar route.”
London Welsh will be playing their Premiership home matches at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford.