England have made three changes to their squad for the World Rugby U20 Championships, which kick off against Ireland on Tuesday 4th June.
Injuries rule out Exeter Chiefs tighthead Marcus Street and Northampton Saints hooker Samson Ma’asi, while Harlequins’ Marcus Smith is also ruled out after he was selected for the England side to face the Barbarians on Sunday and therefore cannot travel with the squad, who head to Argentina for the Championships on Thursday.
Head Coach Steve Bates replaces Street with his clubmate James Kenny, with Bristol Bears’ exciting young hooker Will Capon replacing Ma’asi. Sale Sharks’ versatile Luke James replaces Smith, the young back has been on fire for his club this year but surprisingly had been largely overlooked by the national set up until now.
The remaining 25 are as named a couple of weeks ago, including Bloxham schoolboy Alfie Barbeary, who will likely play an even bigger role at hooker with Ma’asi’s withdrawl.
The squad is packed with experience, including the fully capped Worcester Warriors star Ted Hill, who featured in last year’s run to the final in France.
That was England’s sixth U20 final in a row, and they have secured the title in three of those, 2013, 2014, and at home in 2016. Six other players in the squad also featured in last year’s squad, including Saracens lock Joel Kpoku, who has spent time with the England senior squad, and Hill’s fellow back rowers Aaron Hinckley of Gloucester, Wasps’ Tom Willis, and Josh Basham, who recently signed for Newcastle Falcons after leaving London Irish to pursue a degree at Durham University.
Leicester Tigers prop Joe Heyes also features at the Championships for the second time, as does Northampton Saints Fraser Dingwall, the former Bedford School skipper has been in sensational form for Saints this season.
Alongside those players there are plenty of others with strong experience, not least Sale Sharks’ Cameron Redpath and Luke James, as well as clubmates Arron Reed, Connor Doherty, and Nick Dolly. The Sale Sharks’ production line is looking exceptionally rude health. Dolly will be competing with Barbeary and Capon for that hooker berth while the other four Sale players are all in the backline.
Gloucester’s Olly Adkins, Worcester Warriors’ Kai Owen, and Exeter Chiefs’ Alfie Petch will join the aforementioned Heyes and Kenny as the props in the sqad.
Alongside Kpoku, Northampton Saints’ Alex Coles is the only out and out second row in the squad, but Basham and Hill will also cover the second row, with Hinckley and Willis joined by the Exeter Chiefs duo of Rus Tuima and Richard Capstick as the out and out back rowers.
Their clubmate Sam Maunder and Yorkshire Carneigie’s Ollie Fox are the two scrum halves while, in the absence of Marcus Smith, Saracens’ Manu Vunipola and Bath’s Tom De Glanville will be the main fly half options, though De Glanville is also comfortable in the centres or full back, while both Luke James and Cameron Redpath would be comfortable stepping in at fly half if necessary, and James is equally happy at full back. Fraser Dingwall will likely operate solely as a centre, Connor Doherty can play both at centre and wing as can Gloucester’s Tom Seabrook, while Aaron Reed and Northampton Saints’ Ollie Sleightholme are more standalone wingers, while Newcastle Falcons’ Josh Hodge, a former teammate of Redpath’s at Sedbergh School, is most happy at full back.
England’s updated World Rugby U20 Championship Squad:
Olly Adkins (Gloucester Rugby)
Alfie Barbeary (Wasps & Bloxham)
Josh Basham (Newcastle Falcons)
Will Capon (Bristol Bears)
Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs)
Alex Coles (Northampton Saints)
Tom de Glanville (Bath Rugby)
Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints)
Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks)
Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks)
Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers)
Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors)
Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester Rugby)
Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)
Luke James (Sale Sharks)
James Kenny (Exeter Chiefs)
Joel Kpoku (Saracens)
Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)
Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors)
Alfie Petch (Exeter Chiefs)
Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks)
Arron Reed (Sale Sharks)
Tom Seabrook (Gloucester Rugby)
Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints)
Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
Manu Vunipola (Saracens)
Tom Willis (Wasps)