The England squad for the U18 Six Nations Festival, beginning on Saturday, has been named.
Head Coach John Fletcher has named a 26-man squad, and they will face Scotland in their first game at 12pm on Saturday before facing Italy at 12pm on Wednesday 4th April, and France on Sunday 8th April.
Sedbergh School, who have won the Rosslyn Park HSBC National School 7s and Sedbergh Super 10s titles in the last week to add to their Daily Mail Trophy triumph, have three players in the squad, Sale Sharks’ Bevan Rodd and the Newcastle Falcons due of Rob Farrar and Josh Hodge.
The AASE Champions, Hartpury College, also have three players in the squad, JJ Tonks up front with Jacob Morris and Jack Reeves in the back division All three play their academy rugby at Gloucester and make up half of the remarkable six Gloucester players in the squad, with Dean Close fly half George Barton, St Peter’s Gloucester’s Reece Dunn, and prop forward Jack Bartlett the others.
Kirkham Grammar School are the only other school with more than one player in the 26-man squad, they have two players representing them, centre Connor Doherty and back row forward Ted Leatherbarrow, both of whom are with Sale Sharks.
Sale have four players in the squad, the joint-second most, with Doherty, Leatherbarrow, and Rodd joined by Sandbach’s Cal Ford. Newcastle Falcons also have four, with Kirkbie Kendal second row Will Montgomery and Gosforth Academy back Callum Pascoe joining Sedbergh’s Farrar and Hodge.
Twelve of the fourteen RFU Academy Clubs, the twelve Aviva Premiership teams plus Bristol and Yorkshire Carnegie, are represented. Only Yorkshire Carnegie and Bath are unrepresented in the squad.
Wasps, Northampton Saints, and U18 Academy League champions Leicester Tigers all have two players each in the squad. Leicester are represented by Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth flanker Henri Lavin and Brooksby Melton College second row George Martin. Wasps meanwhile have Henley College’s Will Simonds and star hooker Alfie Barbeary of Bloxham School in the squad, while Northampton Saints are represented by St Joseph’s College hooker Samson Ma’asi and Northampton School for Boys winger Ollie Sleightholme, the son of the former England winger, Jon.
One name that will stand out to many readers is that of Manu Vunipola, the Harrow and Saracens u18 fly half, who is the cousin of England internationals Billy and Mako, who landed a last minute drop goal winner against Sedbergh at Rosslyn Park during Sedbergh’s run to the title.
The side Sedbergh eventually beat in the final were back to back champions Cranleigh, who had Harry Barlow playing for them. The Harlequins flyer is also park of this England U18 squad, with Bristol scrum half Blake Boyland, of SGS Filton College, completing the back division.
Up front Peter Symonds College are represented by Ben Donnell of the London Irish academy, while Worcester Warriors’ Lewis Holsey represents Solihull School. Exeter College number 8 Rus Tuima completes the forwards group, the Exeter Chiefs man has been a star for school, club, and country so far this year.
A number of exciting players are unfortunate to miss out as the tournament’s eligibility criteria is that players must have been Under 18 on January 1st 2018, and with the English system, and many others, having their start date for U18 eligibility as 1st September 2017, some huge talents unfortunately miss out.
England head in to the tournament full of confidence, they may have lost their opening game of the season 27-5 away to France but have since picked up 64-0 and 42-14 away wins at Scotland and Wales respectively.
Commenting ahead of the tournament, Head Coach John Fletcher said to www.englandrugby.com:
“The point of the Six Nations Festival is to provide the players with an elevated experience from their schools and academies and to put them into a different environment against different players, we will play against the best players from the six nations countries and the players will learn loads from that experience.”
“It also gives the squad an opportunity to play the way that we feel will best prepare them for the England teams of the future. We want our players to make decisions based on what is in front of them and express themselves both sides of the ball.”
“There is the opportunity for all the players to get really good learning from the three games and it’s an opportunity for them to train with really good players in an England environment. The experiences they get at the festival will be helpful to their development in the future.”
England U18 Squad for U18 6 Nations Festival (31st March – 8th April):
Alfie Barbeary (Bloxham & Wasps)
Jack Bartlett (Gloucester)
Ben Donnell (Peter Symonds College & London Irish)
Rob Farrar (Sedbergh & Newcastle Falcons)
Cal Ford (Sandbach & Sale Sharks)
Lewis Holsey (Solihull & Worcester Warriors)
Henri Lavin (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth & Leicester Tigers)
Ted Leatherbarrow (Kirkham Grammar & Sale Sharks)
Samson Ma’asi (St Josephs College & Northampton Saints)
George Martin (Brooksby Melton College & Leicester Tigers)
Will Montgomery (Kirkbie Kendal & Newcastle Falcons)
Bevan Rodd (Sedbergh & Sale Sharks)
JJ Tonks (Hartpury College & Gloucester)
Rus Tuima (Exeter College & Exeter Chiefs)
Harry Barlow (Cranleigh & Harlequins)
George Barton (Dean Close & Gloucester)
Blake Boyland (SGS Filton College & Bristol)
Connor Doherty (Kirkham Grammar & Sale Sharks)
Reece Dunn (St Peter’s Gloucester & Gloucester)
Josh Hodge (Sedbergh & Newcastle Falcons)
Jacob Morris (Hartpury College & Gloucester)
Callum Pascoe (Gosforth Academy & Newcastle Falcons)
Jack Reeves (Hartpury College & Gloucester)
Will Simonds (The Henley College & Wasps)
Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton School for Boys & Northampton Saints)
Manu Vunipola (Harrow & Saracens)
U18 6 Nations Festival Schedule:
Matchday 1 – Saturday 31st March, Ystrad Mynach (Centre of Sporting Excellence)
Scotland U18 v England U18 – 12pm
Wales U18 v France U18 – 2.30pm
Ireland U18 v Italy U18 – 5pm
Matchday 2 – Wednesday 4th April, Cardiff Arms Park
Italy U18 v England U18 – 12pm
Ireland U18 v Wales U18 – 2.30pm
France U18 v Scotland U18 – 5pm
Matchday 3 – Sunday 8th April, Cardiff Arms Park
Ireland U18 v Scotland U18 – 12pm
Italy U18 v Wales U18 – 2.30pm
France U18 v England U18 – 5pm