Ed Barnard believes that Worcestershire is "the best county in the country" at which to be a young player.

England Under-19 all-rounder Barnard takes great heart from Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes' willingness to give youth a chance at New Road.

Six of the side in action in the last LV = County Championship clash with Sussex – Daryl Mitchell, Tom Fell, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Ben Cox, Jack Shantry and Charlie Morris – are academy products.

And Rhodes says Barnard and his flat mate Joe Clarke are both capable of challenging for a first team spot this summer.

Barnard said: "Worcestershire has a reputation for giving young players a chance which is brilliant.

"Myself, Joe (Clarke) and Alex (Hepburn) have spoken about this a lot.

"You've just got to look at the first team and how many of them have come through the academy.

"I think it is the best county in the country to be as a young player in terms of the conditions, the facilities and then the chances that Bumpy (Steve Rhodes) likes to give to the young lads, and with Matt Mason (bowling coach) being brilliant for my bowling."

Barnard believes the late academy director Damian D'Oliveira would also be full of pride at the number of academy players in the senior set-up.

He said: "Dolly was a great man and great for the club and the academy.

"It is a great honour for Dolly to see all those lads and he will be smiling from up there, especially when Felly (Tom Fell) scored the 100 the other week against Yorkshire. He was a brilliant man."

Barnard also takes great heart from Rhodes' positive comments about his and Clarke's first team prospects this summer but knows there is still plenty of hard work ahead.

He said: "As a young player to hear stuff from the head coach like that is brilliant.

"It fills you with confidence but there is still a lot to come and we've got to keep working hard and just keep doing what you can and understand it's not going to be a fast progress straight into the first team.

"But there will be chances and it's all all about taking those chances and making the most of the opportunities."

Barnard will try to press his claims in the Second Eleven.

He said: "That's the biggest place you can push now with all the pre-season games gone.

"If you look at our second team now, it is going to be very strong. If you look at the competition for places, there are going to be people who will miss out.

"It will make our second team very strong which is exciting really for the season coming. You've just to try and do as well as you can."