England have named their team for their final game of the U18 6 Nations Festival, against France at the Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday.
England have lost their opening two fixtures, to Scotland and Italy, making Sunday’s game against France vital for them. France have had an up and down campaign themselves though, beating hosts Wales in the opening round before also going down to Scotland in round two.
With a win under their belts, plus a 27-5 victory over England at the start of the U18 International season, France will likely head in to the game with the greater confidence, but this is a much better England side than results in this Festival suggest.
Head Coach John Fletcher has made nine changes in personnel to the side that went down 32-30 to Italy on Wednesday. Sedbergh’s Josh Hodge stays in the team, but moves from full back to the right wing to accommodate St Peter’s Gloucester’s Reece Dunn at full back, Hartpury College’s Jacob Morris completes the back three. Morris is one of just four players in the squad to have started all three games in the competition.
Another of that select group of starters in all three games is Henley College’s Will Simonds, who moves back to outside centre after playing in the twelve shirt against Italy, Hartpury College’s Jack Reeves comes in at inside centre.
It is the same half back pairing that started against Scotland in the opener, with SGS Filton College’s Blake Boyland at scrum half and Harrow’s Man Vunipola back in at fly half.
Sandbach’s Cal Ford keeps his place at tighthead after starting there against Italy, Sedbergh’s Bevan Rodd, one of three Sedbergh men in the starting fifteen, comes back in at hooker, so too Alfie Barbeary at hooker, the Bloxham man will once again skipper the young England side.
Peter Symonds’ College’s Ben Donnell makes it a clean sweep of starts in the second row for the Festival, he is joined by his partner from the first game, Brooksby Melton College’s George Martin.
JJ Tonks of Hartpury College keeps his place on the openside, his third start of the campaign, he is joined on the flank by Sedbergh’s Rob Farrar, with Exeter College’s Rus Tuima at number 8, as he was against Scotland.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com ahead of the game, John Fletcher said:
“I want to see them play for the full 70 minutes, in patches we’ve been good both sides of the ball but we have lacked consistency and we have been in and out of the game far too much.”
“We are going to need to play for 70 minutes against France as they are probably the best team in the festival. We played them early in our season and although the game was quite even I was impressed with their play.”
“The players have worked really hard over the past week and we would like to see them perform for 70 minutes on Sunday. It’s a really good opportunity for us to end the festival on a high with a really positive performance.”
England U18 v France U18 – Sunday 8th March, 5pm, Cardiff Arms Park
England U18 XV:
15 Reece Dunn (St Peter’s Gloucester & Gloucester), 14 Josh Hodge (Sedbergh & Newcastle Falcons), 13 Will Simonds (Henley College & Wasps), 12 Jack Reeves (Hartpury College & Gloucester), 11 Jacob Morris (Hartpury College & Gloucester), 10 Manu Vuniplola (Harrow & Saracens), 9 Blake Boyland (SGS Filton College & Bristol), 1 Bevan Rodd (Sedbergh & Sale Sharks), 2 Alfie Barbeary (Bloxham & Wasps), 3 Cal Ford (Sandbach & Sale Sharks), 4 Ben Donnell (Peter Symonds College & London Irish), 5 George Martin (Brooksby Melton College & Leicester Tigers), 6 Rob Farrar (Sedbergh & Newcastle Falcons), 7 JJ Tonks (Hartpury College & Gloucester), 8 Rus Tuima (Exeter College & Exeter Chiefs).
Replacements: 16 Samon Ma’asi (St Joseph’s College & Northampton Saints), 17 Lewis Holsey (Solihull & Worcester Warriors), 18 Jack Bartlett (Gloucester), 19 Will Montogmery (Kirkbie Kendal & Newcastle Falcons), 20 Henri Lavin (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth College & Leicester Tigers), 21 Ted Leatherbarrow (Kirkham Grammar & Sale Sharks), 22 Callum Pascoe (Gosforth Academy & Newcastle Falcons), 23 George Barton (Dean Close & Gloucester), 24 Connor Doherty (Kirkham Grammar & Connor Doherty), 25 Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton School for Boys & Northampton Saints), 26 Harry Barlow (Cranleigh & Harlequins).
U18 6 Nations Festival Schedule: Saturday 31st March to Sunday 8th April
Matchday 1 – Saturday 31st March, Ystrad Mynach (Centre of Sporting Excellence)
Scotland U18 32-27 England U18
Wales U18 14-22 France U18
Ireland U18 20-17 Italy U18
Matchday 2 – Wednesday 4th April, Cardiff Arms Park
Italy U18 32-30 England U18
Ireland U18 28-36 Wales U18
France U18 21-24 Scotland U18
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
Previous U18 results this season:
Scotland 30-32 Wales
Scotland 0-64 England
Wales 14-42 England
France 27-5 England
Ireland 20-39 France
Italy 18-5 France ‘B’
U18 6 Nations Festival – Unofficial Table