IF you ask any average English rugby fan their dream, there is a fair chance that they will say running out at Twickenham in the famous white strip and representing their country.

It is an ambition that many wish for, few attempt seriously to fulfil, and even fewer succeed in realising.

But for 16-year-old Stuart Townsend, that elusive goal has just moved a considerable step closer after he was selected for the England U17 performance squad.

England youth coach John Fletcher is one notable judge who reckons the teenager could go all the way to the top, calling him the most talented scrum-half he's ever seen.

He said: 'Stu has all the talents to make it as a full England player. I would say that he is the most talented scrum-half I've seen in my four years as part of the England set-up.

'What he needs to do is keep working hard, keep learning and just let his skills show, because he is one of the most exciting players I've seen.'

And coach of Kingsbridge U16s, of which Townsend is a member, Steve Pound added: 'I wouldn't rule out him making the 2015 Rugby World Cup.'

Townsend plays rugby for his local club, Kingsbridge, where he has been playing since the tender age of six.

He has recently moved schools to Ivybridge Community College at the behest of Premiership outfit Exeter Chiefs RFC.

ICC was chosen by the Rugby Football Union to host the Chiefs' south west academy three years ago.

Townsend's rugby career really took off when he was selected to play for south Devon at U13 and U14 tournaments against north, west and east Devon teams.

South Devon won both years, and soon after that he was picked to be a part of the Elite Player Development Group at the Exeter club.

He spent part of his recent summer break in an England U16 performance squad training camp with 37 other boys. The camp was a trial to see who would be selected for the U17 performance squad, an important step on the way to becoming a fully fledged England international.

Suddenly, the dream of becoming an England international seems a lot less remote than for most people...

When you speak to some of the myriad coaches who are involved in the youngster's development, the dream becomes even less remote. It is also true to say that Exeter Chiefs academy and Ivybridge Community College have some pedigree when it comes to producing England rugby players.

A quick glance at the team sheet of August's match between Australia U18s and England U18s reveals five Exeter Chiefs' players in the side, three of whom attend Ivybridge Community College – Sam Jones, Jack Arnott and Sam Hill – the most representatives of any single school. It also goes some way to explaining why Townsend made the difficult decision to leave Kingsbridge Community College, and his friends, in pursuit of his lofty ambition.

The school holds many happy memories for him, including what he describes as the proudest moment of his career so far when he played at Twickenham in the Daily Mail Cup final in Year 7.

Steve Pound, the coach of the KRFC U16s side of which Townsend is a member, said: 'Stu was part of the team when I started coaching the under 8s, back in 2002.

'A lot of younger players stand out from the crowd because they are bigger, stronger and faster than their counterparts.

'Stu has never been the biggest, strongest or quickest, but stood out from the start simply because of his natural ability to master all the skills necessary to excel in the game.

'This, along with a blinkered determination, a passion for the physicality and an uncanny sixth sense of reading the opposition's thoughts, was where Stuart really stood out from a very early age.'

Townsend certainly has the work ethic and commitment needed to get to top, admitting that he trains for about 10 hours a week and that he has 'no time for hobbies'.

He is hoping to become a part of the successful Chiefs' set-up full-time, and describes feeling 'nervous and excited' about the England U16 camp he attended in the summer.

When talk turns to sporting heroes and inspirations, the answers reveal the heights that Stu hopes to achieve in his professional career. Step forward, England 2003 World Cup heroes Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson.

Stuart Townsend, then, can be described as a man who sets his sights high. And, what is more, he has already shown he has the dedication to make the most of his undoubted talents.

Watch this space – a future England scrum-half could be in the making.