New England U10 Head Coach Alan Dickens named his first Elite Player Squad last week ahead of the 2020 season.
The 32-man squad will form the basis of the England squad to compete at the U20 Six Nations, which begins away at France on Saturday 1st February, before then heading t the World Rugby U20 Championships in Italy.
The squad got together yesterday at Bisham Abbey in preparation for the Six Nations campaign, which sees them start with away games against France and Scotland, who also named their squad a few days ago, before home games against Ireland at Franklin’s Gardens and Wales at Kingsholm, finishing off on the road again against Italy.
The squad features eight player with U20 international experience, and plenty of senior rugby experience, not least Manu Vunipola, the former Harrow fly half played for the U20s last year and starred in the early part of the season for Saracens with Owen Farrel on World Cup duty and Max Malins injured.
Also among the returning U20 stars are the Exeter Chiefs trio in the squad of back rowers Richard Capstick and Rus Tuima, and scrum half Sam Maunder. Northampton Saints star Ollie Sleightholme also returns as does Newcastle Falcons’ Josh Hodge and Sale Shark’s Connor Doherty. Wasps Alfie Barbeary also has U20 experience he played in the U20 Six Nations and World Rugby U20 Championships last years despite still being a schoolboy player at Bloxham.
In total 12 of the 14 academies are represented in the squad, only Yorkshire Carnegie and Bristol Bears are not represented. Sale Sharks have the biggest representation in the squad, they have five players selected and incredibly all five are in the backline. Joining Doherty from Sale are Joe Carpenter, formerly of Yorkshire Carnegie, Raphael Quirke, Tom Roebuck, and Tom Curtis.
Curtis, the former Sedbergh fly half/inside centre, will see plenty of familiar faces in the squad from his school days, with Newcastle Falcons featuring three players in the squad, all of whom were at Sedbergh, Rob Farrar, Josh Hodge, and Will Haydon-Wood.
Leicester Tigers’ dominance at U18 level in the last few years is reflected in four players in the squad, George Martin and James Whitcombe up front and Freddie Steward and Jack Van Poortvliet in the backline. Saracens also have four as joining Vunipola are Harvey Beaton, Theodore Dan, and Sam Crean, who would be making his first ever appearance at any level for England should he be capped.
So too would Worcester Warriors’ sole representative, Noah Heward, and Bath’s Gabriel Hamer-Webb. Things will not be too unfamiliar for Hamer-Webb though, he has two clubmates in Nahum Merigan and Max Ojomoh to keep him company.
Gloucester also have three players in the squad, Jack Clement, Josh Gray, and George Barton, as well as former player JJ Tonks, who is now one of two Northampton Saints players in the squad, alongside Sleightholme. London Irish also have two young talents in the squad, Luke Green and Ben Donnell, while Harlequins’ sole representative is Hugh Tizard.
Announcing his selection, Alan Dickens spoke to England Rugby, saying:
“Players have been selected through a combination of their performances last year and displays in domestic and European competitions this season, it’s been encouraging to see a number of the group playing Premiership, Champions Cup and Challenge Cup rugby and I believe we’ve selected a really strong 32 for our elite player squad. We also have a wider squad that we know will contribute and be crucial during the Six Nations as well as the World Rugby U20 Championship and my message to those players not in the 32 would be to stay fit and engaged with everything we are doing.”
“I also want players to enjoy themselves. Being selected for England at any level is a proud moment in their careers and they should remember that. Hopefully, this is the next step in their ultimate dream of playing for the senior side.”
“Some of this group will have experienced the Six Nations last year and know how special a competition it is, with fixtures against some of England’s great rivals. Crucially though, it prepares them for what they will experience as and when they make the next step into the senior side so it is a critical phase in their development as an England player. These players need to be aware that next step is not too far away and relish this opportunity.”
“We’ve had our first camp in November which was a really positive experience. It was made even more positive for the players when Eddie Jones was able to come in and deliver a session and that had a really powerful impact on them.”
England U20 2020 EPS
Alfie Barbeary (Wasps Rugby)
Harvey Beaton (Saracens)
Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs)
Jack Clement (Gloucester Rugby)
Sam Crean (Saracens)
Theodore Dan (Saracens)
Ben Donnell (London Irish)
Rob Farrar (Newcastle Falcons)
Josh Gray (Gloucester Rugby)
Luke Green (London Irish)
George Martin (Leicester Tigers)
Nahum Merigan (Bath Rugby)
Hugh Tizard (Harlequins)
JJ Tonks (Northampton Saints)
Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
James Whitcombe (Leicester Tigers)
George Barton (Gloucester Rugby)
Joe Carpenter (Sale Sharks)
Tom Curtis (Sale Sharks)
Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks)
Gabriel Hamer-Webb (Bath Rugby)
Will Haydon-Wood (Newcastle Falcons)
Noah Heward (Worcester Warriors)
Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)
Max Ojomoh (Bath Rugby)
Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)
Raphael Quirke (Sale Sharks)
Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks)
Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
Jack Van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers)
Manu Vunipola (Saracens)