The RBS 6 Nations kicks off on Saturday, with the U20 RBS 6 Nations kicking off tonight.
With that in mind, we thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the England U20 squad from Fifteen Rugby’s first season, 2012/13.
That squad won the 2013 RBS 6 Nations, winning four of their five games, their only defeat being a 16-15 loss away against Ireland. It was to be their only defeat of the season as they then went on to win the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship (now the World Rugby U20 Championship), the first time and England side had won the title.
Six of that 2013 U20 Elite Player Squad of 32 have, or will have by the Saturday evening, made their England debuts, another, Sam Hill, could well do by the end of the RBS 6 Nations, while Kyle Sinckler has an international appearance for England under his belt, albeit an uncapped one against the Barbarians.
Ross Moriarty switched his allegiance to Wales after his time with the U20s and has since also gone on to international honours, appearing for them in the Rugby World Cup. Scott Wilson has appeared for the England Saxons.
Perhaps even more remarkable is that 26 of that 32 man squad are plying their trade regularly in the Aviva Premiership now. Two others are playing in the Pro 12, Nathan Fowles at Edinburgh, and Tom Price at Llanelli Scarlets. Nathan Morris is at London Welsh but was also a regular when they were a top flight side, while Max Crumpton will be for Bristol, assuming they finally gain promotion.
That makes 30/32 who are in the top flight mix three years after they appeared for England U20, that is a very healthy situation indeed.
Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell will start for England on Sunday, indeed Watson is in his third season as an England international, a remarkable achievement. Ollie Devoto and Jack Clifford, captain of this 2013 squad, will make their debuts from the bench, while Henry Slade would most likely have started were it not for a broken leg.
It is a remarkable record for a group of young men who even now are just 22-23 years of age, still very raw as far as rugby players go.
They are not alone as rapidly rising stars either, the U20 group above them featured the likes of Owen Farrell, George Ford, Billy Vunipola, and Jonathan Joseph, while the group that followed them, who won the 2014 IRB Junior World Champonship, are also making waves with Paul Hill set to make his England debut on Saturday, and Maro Itoje surely likely to do so at some point over the course of the Championship.
English rugby, despite the headlines, looks like it is in a very healthy place. It looks likely to stay that way too, the current U20 squad looks every bit as promising as this 2013 crop – you can take a look at the current U20 squad here: England U20 2015.
For now though, let’s take a look at the 2013 group and marvel at their progress.
England U20 Elite Player Squad, 2013:
Name, Club then, Club now, Highest Honour (*denotes Premiership appearances)
Dominic Barrow (Leeds Carnegie) – Leicester Tigers*, England U20
Jack Clifford (c)(Harlequins) – Harlequins*, England
Luke Cowan Dickie (Exeter Chiefs) – Exeter Chief*s, England
Max Crumpton (Saracens) – Bristol, England U20
Matt Hankin (Saracens) – Saracens*, England U20
Alec Hepburn (London Wasps) – Exeter Chiefs*, England U20
Tom Jubb (Saracens) – Darlington Mowden Park, England U20
Ross Moriarty (Gloucester Rugby) – Gloucester*, Wales
Nathan Morris (London Wasps) – London Welsh*, England U20
Tom Price (Leicester Tigers) – Llanelli Scarlets*, England U20
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) – Harlequins*, England (non-cap international)
David Sisi (London Irish) – Bath/London Irish*, England U20
Scott Spurling (Saracens) – Saracens*, England U20
Elliott Stooke (Gloucester Rugby) – Gloucester (moving to Bath)*, England U20
Harry Wells (Leicester Tigers) – Bedford Blues, England U20
Scott Wilson (Newcastle Falcons) – Newcastle Falcons*, England Saxons
Jack Arnott (Exeter Chiefs) – Exeter Chiefs*, England U20
Callum Braley (Bristol Rugby) – Gloucester*, captain England U20
Tom Collins (Northampton Saints) – Northampton Saints*, England U20
Alex Day (Northampton Saints) – Cornish Pirates*, England U20
Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby) – Bath (moving to Exeter)*, England
Nathan Fowles (Sale Sharks) – Edinburgh*, England U20
Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs) – Exeter Chiefs*, England squad
Will Hooley (Northampton Saints) – Exeter Chiefs*, England U20
Ben Howard (Worcester Warriors) – Worcester Warriors*, England U20
Mark Jennings (Sale Sharks) – Sale Sharks*, England U20
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) – Exeter Chiefs*, England
Henry Purdy (Leicester Tigers) – Gloucester*, England U20
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) – Exeter Chiefs*, England
Harry Sloan (Harlequins) – Harlequins*, England U20
Tom Stephenson (Northampton Saints) – Northampton Saints*, England U20
Anthony Watson (London Irish) – Bath*, England