TWO LOCAL lads are one step away from representing their country at rugby league.
Ben Hodgson and Mike Bishay have been selected for the England U16 National Preparation squad, which will train for a game against France U16s next Easter, after which the squad of 24 will be chopped down to an elite of 20.
The youngsters both play for Osterley-based West London Sharks, as well as being on Harlequins Rugby League's scholar-ship scheme.
Hodgson, from Ashford, is a dynamic ball-carrying prop/back-rower with a good off-load as well as an aggressive tackle. He also plays for his school, Isleworth & Syon.
Bishay, from Sunbury, is a lightning-fast scrum-half/hooker with a magical side-step. He too plays for his school, Sunbury Manor.
Quins RL player performance manager, Phil Brown, said: "These selections are a massive reflection on the hard work and dedication put in by the players, who have all have improved their individual games.
"It is also a pat on the back for their junior club, their coaches at regional level, and Colin Baker, who has put so much hard work into improving our scholarship programme."
The chances of the duo eventually stepping up to play Super League rugby for Quins RL are high.
Quins have brought more young players through their ranks than ever in the last couple of years, and this week handed first-team contract to two more reserves.
Luke May and Dave Williams were both awarded two-year professional deals, while another reserve player, Jack Graves, will train with the first team.
But it is not just their own youngsters Quins are developing. Boss Brian MacDermott this week also signed a pair of promising pups from other clubs.
Hooker Ben Kaye, 19, was snapped up from Leeds Rhinos' academy, while second rower Jason Golden, 22, was brought in from Wakefield, where he has played 30 first team games.
In addition, forwards Jonny Grayshon and Joe Mbu have signed contract extensions, 12 months and two years respectively, as Quins' squad for next season starts to take shape.
Quins boss Brian McDermott said: "Continuity's important for us.
"I think everyone recognises the impact that Joe has made during 2008, and it is pleasing to see a London junior doing so well.
"Jonny has had a strong second half to this season, earning himself a new contract."
However, the most notable signing, which was also announced this week, was the return of former Quin Luke Dorn.
The 26-year-old Aussie, who scored 32 tries in 50 games for Quins in 2005 and 2006, comes back on a two-year deal following two years at Salford and Castleford.
McDermott said: "I think everyone recognises Luke as being one of the most potent attacking players in Super League.
"The squad will benefit from his style of play."
Meanwhile, Chad Randall and Julien Rinaldi bagged two tries apeice as Quins saw out their season by beating Catalans Dragons 34-24 on Sunday.
Will Sharp and Rob Purdham also nabbed a try each, while Purdham kicked four goals and Henry Paul one.