In the Weekend Review this year we will occasionally look back at some teams for previous World Rugby U20 Championships, or IRB Junior World Championships, as they once were.
The season culminates with the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championships, so we will look back at a few of England’s teams every now and then as we build towards it.
The Championships began in 2008, replacing the old U19 and U21 competitions. New Zealand dominated the early years, winning in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, before South Africa cracked the code in 2012. Then along came England’s great run, where they won in 2013, 2014, and 2016, with New Zealand winning in 2015 and 2017.
That first final in 2008 was between the Baby Blacks and England, with New Zealand carrying their form from the 2007 U19 Championships to lift the title with a 38-3 victory.
Looking at that England team though, who were they, and what are they up to now?
England U20 XV 2008 World Rugby U20 Championship Final
15 Noah Cato – Retired (England Saxons)
Cato recently retired having moved from Saracens to Saints, and finally to Newcastle Falcons. He earned England Saxons caps as a youngster but never quite made the steps that were hoped row.
14 Mark Odejobi – Retired
Odejobi appeared for England 7s and while always had much promise, he never quite managed to stick it out in the Premiership. Now working in the city.
13 Luke Eves – Hartpury College
After a long spell at Bristol, Eves moved to Hartpury College, where he is now part of the side that is in its first ever season in the Greene King IPA Championship.
12 Jordan Turner-Hall – Retired (2 England caps)
One of the many unfortunate players from this group to have had to retire through injury. Won a couple of England caps but injury always seemed to halt him just as he appeared to be on the cusp of more.
11 Miles Benjamin – Retired (England Saxons)
Retired recently after successful spells and Worcester Warriors and latterly Leicester Tigers. Won England Saxons caps but was always part of an era with some really exciting English back three players.
10 Alex Goode – Saracens & England
Moved to full back having broken into the Saracens 1st XV as a youngster and has pretty much been there ever since. Has a hatful of England caps and would have more were it not for Mike Brown. One of the most talented players of his generation.
9 Joe Simpson – Wasps & England
Has been overtaken in the international pecking order by the man he kept on the bench for this final, Ben Youngs, but has had a wonderful career to date. One of the most exciting scrum halves in the league and has enjoyed great success with Wasps, and has a couple of England caps to his name.
1 Nathan Catt – Bath & England Saxons
Yet to be capped by England but knocking hard at the door. Were David Flatman a selector, Catt would have a dozen or so by now. One of Bath’s best performers and a Premiership stalwart.
2 Joe Gray – Harlequins & England
Moved to Harlequins after moving on from Saints and has not looked back. A huge part of the Quins fabric and has been rewarded with a few appearances for England.
3 Alex Corbisiero – British & Irish Lions, Northampton Saints, & England (now retired)
Perhaps the biggest success story of this group. Became predominantly a loosehead, and went on to become perhaps the best in the world there for a period. Won a British and Irish Lions series, plenty of England caps, and a Premiership title with Saints before retiring through chronic knee injuries. Now working for NBC in the USA on their Premiership Rugby coverage.
4 Ben Thomas – Retired
Finished his career at Coventry back in 2016, Thomas was something of a second row stalwart in the Championship and National 1 for various sides.
5 Gregor Gillanders – London Scottish
Back at London Scottish after a period at Blackheath. Came close to making the grade at Leicester Tigers but eventually moved to work and play rugby in London.
6 Jon Fisher – Retired (England Saxons)
Enjoyed a successful Premiership career, finishing up with Worcester Warriors last year. A succession of injuries convinced him to call it a day, and he is now an academy coach at London Irish.
7 Calum Clark – Saracens & England
The flanker was once rated by Neil Back as England’s best prospect. Injuries and discipline have held him back a little but he is still a quality operator. Earned England caps in the 2015 World Cup build up, and could easily have more. Moved from Northampton to Saracens this summer and could turn out to be one of the best bits of business in the Premiership.
8 Hugo Ellis (captain) – Rosslyn Park
Ellis has spent the bulk of his career at Rosslyn Park in National 1 after leaving Wasps. His leadership qualities, so clear at U20 level, have remained and he has been a long term captain at the South West London club.
16 Scott Freer – Retired
17 Billy Moss – Retired
18 Scott Hobson – Retired
19 Matthew Cox – Worcester Warriors
20 Ben Youngs – British & Irish Lions, Leicester Tigers, & England
21 Rob Miller – Wasps
22 Seb Stegmann – Yorkshire Carnegie
Ben Youngs is the major success story from the replacements, he was a part of the 2013 British and Irish Lions test winning squad in Australia, and was selected for the 2017 squad only to pull out to help care for his brother and his terminally ill wife. England’s number one scrum half now and one of the most experienced players in the team.
Rob Miller has had a solid career and remains exciting, if limited in opportunities at the moment with Willie Le Roux occupying the 15 shirt at Wasps. Seb Stegmannis at Yorkshire Carnegie and Matt Cox at Worcester. Scott Freer, Billy Moss, and Scott Hobson all retired, Hobson, having retired through injury, is now coaching at Bryanston School.
If you have any tales from U20 XVs of the past then do get in touch and let us know! Next time we will take a look at a crop from 2009.