England have named a youthful 23-man squad to take on the Barbarians on Sunday, packed with some of the top players in school rugby over the last few years.
Though the game is not a capped international and Saracens and Exeter Chiefs players are not included due to the Gallagher Premiership final the day before, the squad does give an indication of who might be in the frame to make a big post-Word Cup push for caps, and indeed rewards some players after outstanding seasons.
Marcus Smith is included in the squad, the former Brighton College man will now not travel to the World Rugby U20 Championships as a result of his inclusion.
He will likely share fly half duties with Callum Sheedy. Sheedy was an instrumental figure for Millfield in their outstanding side that also included the likes of Tom Whiteley and Adam Hastings, and has been equally key for Bristol Bears this season, earning the co-captaincy. His Bristol Bears teammate Piers O’Conor joins him, and could play either in the centres or the back three, while Sheedy’s former schoolmate Tom Ellis, who was in his final year at Millfield when Sheedy was breaking through, is selected in the forwards. The Bath man could see game time either in the second row or, more likely, the back row, where he has excelled for his club.
Two other Bath stars join Ellis in the forward options, hooker Tom Dunn and second row Elliott Stooke.
Back in the back line Newcastle Falcons’ centre Johnny Williams is selected. Williams has a number of different international options available to him, as does Sheedy, and though this game will not tie them down as it is uncapped, England will be hoping that the experience will give them cause to choose England in the long run.
The third centre option is Harlequins’ Joe Marchant, one of those in the squad that could potentially make a case for being a World Cup bolter and a player certain to be heavily involved in the coming years.
The two scrum half options are former U20 stars for England, Leicester Tigers’ former Denstone College star Ben White and Northampton Saints former Lymm High School skipper, Alex Mitchell, both of whom have bags of potential.
Meanwhile in the back three Newcastle Falcons’ Simon Hammersley and Wasps’ Josh Bassett are rewarded for the consistent excellence for their clubs, while London Irish’s Ben Loader is also selected just to years on from leaving Wellington College. The young wing has been outstanding in the Greene King IPA Championship this season.
Up front Sale Sharks’ Ben Curry will get another chance in a white shirt. He has seen twin brother Tom put himself in prime position to be the starting openside at the World Cup and will be eager to try to emulate that form. Given what the have done together at Oundle School and Sale Sharks, there seems no reason why they could not do the same together in England colours.
Joining Curry and Ellis as back row options are Northampton Saints’ Teimana Harrison, back in England colours for the first time in a few years, and Harlequins’ Alex Dombrandt, who is rewarded for his stunning season straight after finishing off his University career. Dombrandt has arguably been the find of the season, and the former John Fisher pupil will be on familiar turf at Twickenham having played there for his school against Wellington College in the annual re-run of the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s final back in 2015. He and Sheedy are also familiar having played 7s together for the Samurai Bulldogs that year.
Sale Sharks’ Josh Beaumont could also feature in the back row but will likely be considered more in the second row along with Stooke and Leicester Tigers’ Will Spencer.
Wasps’ Tommy Taylor continues his road back to the international scene by joining Dunn as one of the two hookers in the squad. The four props are terrifically exciting, Sale Sharks Ross Harrison is probably the most experienced of the quartet, he is joined by two Northampton Saints stars, Paul Hill, once of Prince Henry’s Grammar School and a World Rugby U20 Championship winner, and Ehren Painter, who has enjoyed a massive breakthrough season only a year after leaving Felsted School. Three time Schools Cup winner with Dulwich College, Beno Obano, is the fourth prop, the man with the giant thighs has been a beast for his club, Bath.
England Squad v Barbarians:
Josh Beaumont (Sale Sharks)
Ben Curry (Sale Sharks)
Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins)
Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby)
Tom Ellis (Bath Rugby)
Ross Harrison (Sale Sharks)
Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints)
Paul Hill (Northampton Saints)
Beno Obano (Bath Rugby)
Ehren Painter (Northampton Saints)
Will Spencer (Leicester Tigers)
Elliott Stooke (Bath Rugby)
Tommy Taylor (Wasps)
Josh Bassett (Wasps)
Simon Hammersley (Newcastle Falcons)
Ben Loader (London Irish)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
Piers O’Conor (Bristol Bears)
Callum Sheedy (Bristol Bears)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
Ben White (Leicester Tigers)
Johnny Williams (Newcastle Falcons)