After what has felt like a long rest week, England are in action again in the U20 6 Nations on Friday night.
They travel to France for an 8pm (GMT) kick off at the Stade de la Mediterranee in Beziers for a game that will be an almighty test of their abilities. England will be hurting, they lost to Scotland last time out, surrendering a comfortable half time lead. Against France they face the form team of these 6 Nations.
The young French side are unbeaten, and while England lost to Scotland, France put nearly 70 past them two weeks before, and then followed it up by crossing that 70 point threshold against Italy next time out.
The side that England Head Coach Steve Bates has named to end that French run looks strong.
Saracens’ Ben Earl returns to skipper the side from openside flanker. The former Tonbridge School skipper starred in his starting Premiership debut last week and will add plenty of quality to his side.
Joining him in the back row are Sale Sharks Sam Moore and former Wellington College blindside Josh Basham of London Irish. Moore will add plenty of experience too, the former Sedbergh and England U18 skipper trained with the senior England squad earlier in the campaign.
The second row sees former Cranleigh star Dino Lamb of Harlequins link up with Leicester Tigers’ former Denstone College giant, Sam Lewis. Meanwhile in the front row former Bromsgrove skipper Henry Walker of Gloucester will be at hooker, with Northampton Saints’ Toby Trinder at looshead and Exeter Chiefs’ Marcus Street, who played for England U20 last year as an U18 before he had even featured for the England U18 side, at tighthead.
The backline sees former Moulton College star James Grayson move from fly half to full back, the Northampton Saint is joined in the back three by Leicester Tigers’ Jordan Olowofela, whose twin brother Ryan is playing for England 7s. Olowofela moves from full back, while Harlequins wing Gabriel Ibitoye is on the right, the former Trinity man is another who has linked up with Eddie Jones’ senior squad this campaign.
It is an all Leicester Tigers half back pairing as former Denstone College man Ben White comes back in at nine, with ex Rugby School outside half Tom Hardwick alongside him.
The centres sees the two former Scotland age-grade men link up again, former Bedford skipper Fraser Dingwall is at outside centre, the Northampton Saints is joined by Sale Sharks’ Cameron Redpath, who is still at Sedbergh School and is a member of the England U18 squad too.
The England bench sees Wasps former Millfield man Gabriel Oghre covering hooker, with Gloucester’s Alex Seville and ex Felsted star Ehren Painter the replacement props. Malvern College old boy James Scott covers the second row, while the former Worcester 6th form College man, Ted Hill, who also appeared as an U18 for the U20s last year, cover the whole back five of the pack.
Having started last time out, former Wellington College scrum half Rory Brand, another man qualified for Scotland, is on the bench this time, with Worcester Warriors’ Will Butler, and Gloucester’s former Dean Close man Tom Seabrook for company.
Speaking ahead of the game, Steve Bates said:
“Friday is going to be a massive challenge for the squad but it is one we’re relishing. We know this is going to be a tough game, they have played exceptionally well in their three games and at home they are going to be a real handful.”
“However, that’s the beauty of the Six Nations, this is going to be a huge challenge that many of the players would not have experienced before and I’m expecting them to rise to it.
“I want to see us bounce back from the disappointment of losing to Scotland. We have to match France physically and play with intensity. I expect our forwards to be abrasive and our backs to play at a high-tempo. We have to be more accurate with the ball, keep our composure and raise our game.”
France U20 v England U20 – Friday, 8pm (GMT), Stade de la Mediterranee, Beziers.
England U20 XV:
15 James Grayson (Northampton Saints), 14 Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins), 13 Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints), 12 Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks), 11 Jordan Olowofela (Leicester Tigers), 10 Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers), 9 Ben White (Leicester Tigers), 1 Toby Trinder (Northampton Saints), 2 Henry Walker (Gloucester Rugby), 3 Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs), 4 Dino Lamb (Harlequins), 5 Sam Lewis (Leicester Tigers), 6 Josh Basham (London Irish), 7 Ben Earl (Saracens, captain), 8 Sam Moore (Sale Sharks).
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre (Wasps), 17 Alex Seville (Gloucester Rugby), 18 Ehren Painter (Northampton Saints), 19 James Scott (Worcester Warriors), 20 Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors), 21 Rory Brand (London Irish), 22 Will Butler (Worcester Warriors), 23 Tom Seabrook (Gloucester Rugby).