England have named their side to face the U20 6 Nations champions, France, on Saturday lunchtime at Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park.
England were the only side to defeat France in 2018 as the Frenchmen went on to win the U20 6 Nations and the World Rugby U20 Championships, where they beat England in the final.
France have started their title defence in style with a strong victory over Wales last weekend, while England have had a slow start, losing to an inspired Ireland in the opening round.
Head Coach Steve Bates has made three changes to that side that lost to Ireland, but once again it is packed with names that are already household and has an abundance of players with Premiership experience and England senior squad experience.
Chief among them is Ted Hill, who made his senior debut in the Autumn. He starts at blindside again and takes over the captaincy from the injured Fraser Dingwall. The Worcester Warrior starts in an unchanged back row, with Gloucester’s Aaron Hinkley at openside and Wasps’ Tom Willis at number 8.
Northampton Saints’ Alex Coles and Saracens’ Joel Kpoku, another to have trained in the England senior squad, once again link up in the second row, while the front row is also unchanged, Gloucester’s Olly Adkins at loosehead, Sale Sharks’ Nic Dolly at hooker, and Exeter Chiefs’ Marcus Street at tighthead.
The half backs are also unchanged, Exeter Chiefs’ Sam Maunder once again lining up at scrum half alongside the talented Marcus Smith at fly half, who has been on Eddie Jones’ radar several times. It is an all new centre partnership but it is an exciting one, like Smith both are well known to the wider rugby public and both have been in Eddie Jones’ senior squad. Worcester Warriors’ Ollie Lawrence replaces the injured Dingwall at 13, while fit again Cameron Redpath of Sale Sharks starts at 12 in place of Tom Hardwick, the only non-injury enforced changed.
Redpath’s former Sedbergh School teammate Josh Hodge is again at full back with Northampton Saints’ Ollie Sleightholme again on the right wing. On the left Sale Sharks’ Arron Reed comes in for the injured Cadan Murley.
Hardwick has swapped places with Redpath and is on the bench covering the backs alongside Yorkshire Carnegie’s Ollie Fox, who was there last week, and Bath’s Tom De Glanville, who takes Lawrence’s place on the bench after his promotion to the starting fifteen.
Worcester Warriors’ Kai Owen could make his debut as a replacement loosehead, the rest of the replacement forwards are the same as against Ireland, Ben Atkins, James Scott, and Rusiate Tuima.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com ahead of the game Steve Bates said:
“There was a lot of disappointment at the start of the week off the back of Friday’s result but we’ve trained really well and the players are looking forward to getting out there on Saturday and performing in front of a vocal Sandy Park crowd.”
“The game against France in the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship will have a little bearing at the weekend but the nature of U20s rugby is that it is ever evolving and players change rapidly so although a portion of our squad would have played in that final our motivation is to kick-start our Six Nations with an important victory.’
“We know we didn’t look after the ball well enough last week, played from too deep and lacked a bit of organisation which you would expect from a new group at this stage in the tournament. So we’ve worked hard on our understanding and our team work. We’ve had a good preparation and want to go out and continue to play high-tempo, high-intensity rugby but get the balance right.”
“Home advantage will be really important, we’re hoping for a large crowd and we have to get them on our side by playing some good rugby but controlling the game a little bit more. We’ve got to excite that crowd by having confidence to play what we’ve practiced because we feel that’s the best way for these guys to perform and if we do that and do that consistently the crowd will enjoy it.”
England U20 XV v France – Saturday 9th February, 12.05pm, Sandy Park (Live on Sky Sports):
15 Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons), 14 Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints), 13 Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors), 12 Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks), 11 Arron Reed (Sale Sharks), 10 Marcus Smith (Harlequins), 9 Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs), 1 Olly Adkins (Gloucester), 2 Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks), 3 Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs), 4 Joel Kpoku (Saracens), 5 Alex Coles (Northampton Saints), 6 Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors, captain), 7 Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester), 8 Tom Willis (Wasps).
Replacements: 16 Ben Atkins (London Irish), 17 Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors), 18 Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), 19 James Scott (Worcester Warriors), 20 Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs), 21 Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie), 22 Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers), 23 Tom de Glanville (Bath).
England U20 Six Nations Fixtures:
Round 1: Ireland 35-27 England
Round 2: France – Saturday 9th Feb, 12.05pm, Sandy Park, Exeter (live on Sky Sports)
Round 3: Wales – Friday 22nd Feb, 7.05pm, ZipWorld Stadium, Colwyn Bay (live on S4C)
Round 4: Italy – Friday 8th Mar, 7.45pm, Goldington Road, Bedford (live on Sky Sports)
Round 5: Scotland – Friday 15th Mar, 7.45pm, Franklin’s Gardens (live on Sky Sports)