England and France have named their sides for the opening game of the Aon U18 International Series in South Africa.
Wales and South Africa play each other following the conclusion of this 1.15pm (BST) kick off in Boland Landbou before the four teams head to Stellenber on Tuesday, with England and Wales meeting while South Africa host France. The final round of the series takes place on Saturday 18th August at the prestigious SACS, with France playing Wales and England taking on the host nation.
As announced when the squad was originally named, this England group reflects a slight change in the pathway system, with the tour now seen as the start of the next season rather than the end of the previous one for England, and as such the squad is predominantly U17s. For France, in contrast, it is seen as more of an U20s development tour and thus players are towards the end of their U18 careers.
There are four players in the England side with U18 honours to their name though, led by captain Alfie Barbeary, the Wasps and Bloxham man starts at hooker and is certainly one to keep an eye on, he will be opposite the French skipper, Jutge. Next season’s Sedbergh skipper, Tom Curtis, starts at fly half having previously been capped as a sixteen year old, with Gosforth Academy’s Callum Pascoe partnering him at scrum half while Brooksby Melton College’s George Martin is in the second row.
Elsewhere it is a team of U18 debutants. Alongside Martin in the second row is the very exciting George Hammond of Whitgift. He is one of two Whitgift pupils in the side, with Harry Dugmore at blindside. Cheltenham College’s Jack Clement is at openside with Beechen Cliff’s Nahum Merigan at number 8.
Joining Barbeary in the front row is Schools Plate winner James Whitcombe of Woodhouse Grove at loosehead, with Sutton Valence’s Harvey Beaton at tighthead.
Out in the backline New Hall’s Josh Hallett and Christ’s Hospital’s Lennox Anyanwu form the centre partnership, while Millfield’s Josh Gillespie and Wirral Grammar’s Tom Roebuck, another very exciting prospect, are the wing pairing. There will be plenty of talk about the full back too, Hampton School’s Louis Lynagh, son of the former Australian outside half Michael, who won the Rugby World Cup in 1991.
Following the coaching upheaval at U18 level, U20 Head Coach Steve Bates takes the reigns for this one, with Jim Mallinder, Mark Luffman, and Nick Kennedy also involved. Speaking at the announcement of the squad, Bates said:
“The real challenge for this squad and therefore the excitement is going to be that for many of them and certainly altogether as a group they are representing their country for the first time and are starting their England pathway journey. To play for your country on foreign soil is always a huge challenge but also something to be proud of.”
“This is the first of three highly-competitive fixtures against three established teams so it is going to be very interesting to see how they cope with that but will be a good reference point for the future and will be an experience that benefits them as they progress through the pathway.”
“We want to see them play with ambition and a desire to play quickly. We want it to be a team performance where everyone makes a contribution and understands what their contribution is and how important that is.
“Alfie has played before at this level, so is experienced at U18s rugby but we feel he will handle the captaincy well, will lead from the front. He will not overcomplicate things and will be at the centre of a lot of what we do.”
England U18 v France U18 – Boland Landbou, 1.15pm (BST)
England U18 XV:
15 Louis Lynagh (Harlequins (Hampton)
14 Josh Gillespie (Northampton Saints & Millfield)
13 Lennox Anyanwu (Harlequins & Christ’s Hospital)
12 Josh Hallett (Saracens & New Hall)
11 Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks & Wirral GS)
10 Tom Curtis (Sale Sharks & Sedbergh)
9 Callum Pascoe (Newcastle Falcons & Gosforth Academy)
1 James Whitcombe (Leicester Tigers & Woodhouse Grove)
2 Alfie Barbeary (Wasps & Bloxham, captain)
3 Harvey Beaton (Saracens & Sutton Valence)
4 George Hammond (Harlequins & Whitgift)
5 George Martin (Leicester Tigers & Brooksby Melton College)
6 Harry Dugmore (Harlequins & Whitgift)
7 Jack Clement (Gloucester & Cheltenham College)
8 Nahum Merigan (Bath & Beechen Cliff)
Replacements 16 Sam Riley (Harlequins & St George’s Weybridge), 17 Rowan Mullis (Gloucester & Hartpury College), 18 Jack Hughes (Northampton Saints & Uppingham), 19 Chunya Munga (London Irish & Leighton Park), 20 Fin Rossiter (London Irish & Wellington College), 21 Raphael Quirke (Sale Sharks & St Ambrose College), 22 George Barton (Gloucester & Dean Close), 23 Phil Cokanasiga (London Irish & St Pauls Catholic College), 24 Jack Bates (Bristol Bears & SGS Filton College), 25 Will Haydon-Wood (Newcastle Falcons & Sedbergh).
France U18 XV:
15 Tiberghien, 14 Dridi, 13 Falatea Moefana, 12 Fusier, 11 Dulon, 10 Dolhagaray, 9 Germain, 1 Eglaine, 2, Jutge (captain), 3 Ndiaye, 4 Maravat, 5 Warrion, 6 Peysson, 7 Haddad Victor, 8 Hamonou.
Replacements: 16 Lotrian, 17Sarragalet, 18 Ikahehegi, 19 Ployet, 20 Noah, 21 Viallard, 22 Moura, 23 Brosset, 24 Laget, 25 May, 26 Tani.
Aon U18 International Series Fixtures (all KOs BST):
Friday 10th August – Boland Landbou
England v France – 1.15pm
South Africa Schools v Wales – 3pm
Tuesday 14th August – Stellenberg
England v Wales – 1.15pm
South Africa Schools v France – 3pm
Saturday 18th August – SACS
France v Wales – 11.15am
South Africa Schools v England – 1.05pm