England U20 last week named an exciting 32-man Elite Player Squad for the season, which begins on Friday 1st February with their opening U20 6 Nations fixture against Ireland.
Fourteen of the squad have previous U20 experience, ten of whom played in the World Rugby U20 Championship final defeat to France last June.
A huge number of the squad have senior experience and plenty have also seen time in and around the England squad, including Worcester Warriors’ Ted Hill who was capped in the Autumn Internationals. Among the other who have been named in senior England squads are Harlequins’ Marcus Smith, Worcester Warriors’ Ollie Lawrence, Saracens’ Joel Kpoku, and fit again Cameron Redpath of Sale Sharks.
Smith, Lawrence, and Redpath are part of a midfield that looks possibly as strong as any that England U20 have had, with the likes of Kieran Wilkinson, Tom Hardwick, Fraser Dingwall, and Tom De Glanville also in the mix.
The University game is also represented in the squad with Durham’s Josh Basham selected among the forwards. The former Wellington College star left London Irish at the end of last season to pursue his education at Durham University.
The 32 will compete at the 2019 U20 Six Nations and this year’s World Rugby U20 Championships, held in Argentina this time around, with Steve Bates and Jim Mallinder leading them alongside Mark Hopley, James Scaysbrook, and Richard Whiffin who link up as part of the coach development programme agreement between England Rugby and Premiership Rugby.
The squad met last week for a training camp at Bisham Abbey and will meet up again on the 27th January to make final preparations ahead of their opening game of the Six Nations five days later.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com about his squad, Steve Bates said:
“Selecting the 32-player squad was a very difficult task which reflects the quality of the group, we have several players with Premiership experience and that speaks volumes of how good they are. The expectation for us now is to raise the standard and quality of performance from last season’s group and for the players to continue to develop in this environment.”
“We used close to 40 players in last year’s Six Nations, there will always be injuries and those outside of the 32 will still be required so my message to them is to stay fit, stay interested and to continue playing well.”
“One of the big things about U20s rugby is that we want the players to drive the game and environment we create. These are the best players at their age and we want them to perform like it on and off the pitch.’
England U20 Elite Player Squad:
Olly Adkins (Gloucester), Josh Basham (Durham University), Will Capon (Bristol Bears), Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs), Alex Coles (Northampton Saints), Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks), James Dun (Bristol Bears), Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors), Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester), Joel Kpoku (Saracens), Samson Ma’asi (Northampton Saints), Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors), James Scott (Worcester Warriors), Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Willis (Wasps).
Tom De Glanville (Bath), Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints), Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks), Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie), Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers), Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish), Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons), Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors), Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs), Cadan Murley (Harlequins), Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks), Arron Reed (Sale Sharks), Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints), Marcus Smith (Harlequins), Gus Warr (Sale Sharks), Kieran Wilkinson (Sale Sharks).
England U20 Six Nations Fixtures:
Ireland – Friday 1st Feb, 7.15pm, Irish Independent Park, Cork
France – Saturday 9th Feb, 12.05pm, Sandy Park, Exeter (live on Sky Sports)
Wales – Friday 22nd Feb, 7.05pm, ZipWorld Stadium, Colwyn Bay (live on S4C)
Italy – Friday 8th Mar, 7.45pm, Goldington Road, Bedford (live on Sky Sports)
Scotland – Friday 15th Mar, 7.45pm, Franklin’s Gardens (live on Sky Sports)