Head Coach Steve Bates has named his England side for their opening game of the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championships on Wednesday, versus Argentina.
The game take place in Narbonne, one of the three host cities alongside Beziers and Perpignan, kicking off at 5.30pm BST and will be streamed live on www.worldrugby.org with ITV 4 showing highlights in the evening.
Alongside England and Argentina in Group B are Scotland and Italy, who meet at the same time on Wednesday but in Beziers.
England are chasing a sixth consecutive final and a fourth World Rugby U20 Championship title, their most recent coming on home soil in 2016, following the wins in 2013 and 2014.
Sale Sharks’ Ben Curry will captain the side from the openside flank, twin brother Tom was in action in the same position for England’s senior side against the Barbarians on Sunday. Curry has been a star performer for Sale this season, as Bates alluded to when commenting on handing him the captaincy: “Ben Curry’s experience of being a Premiership forward is invaluable and he is a very competitive, professional athlete, as well as being a fine player, which makes him a great choice as captain.”
Joining the former Oundle School star in the back row are Worcester Warriors’ Ted Hill, who last year appeared for the U20s as a schoolboy at Worcester 6th form College, and London Irish’s former Wellington College star Josh Basham at number 8.
The second row sees former Malvern College man James Scott in the second row, a clubmate of Hill’s, while Joel Kpoku becomes the latest Saracens second row to lock down for England U20 after the likes of Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje, and George Kruis.
It is an all Northampton Saints prop pairing in Toby Trinder at loosehead and the former Felsted star Ehren Painter at tighthead. The former Bromsgrove Schools Cup winning captain Henry Walker is at hooker and is one of four players in the starting lineup in his second World Rugby U20 Championship.
In the backline Leicester Tigers’ Ben White, who has previous England U20 captaincy experience, is at scrum half, while Northampton Saints’ James Grayson, a veteran of last year’s tournament, is at fly half.
It is another pair of East Midlands rivals in the midfield as Leicester Tigers’ Tom Hardwick links up with the former Bedford School captain, Fraser Dingwall of Northampton Saints.
A third Leicester Tiger, Jordan Olowofela, is on the left wing with fit again former Sedbergh star Ali Crossdale on the right. Crossdale played in last year’s tournament, as did former Wellington College flyer Tom Parton. The London Irishman starts at fullback.
The bench includes one of the most talked about young players in world rugby, Harlequins’ Marcus Smith. The former Brighton College man last played for the U20s whilst at school, having since spent most of his international time training with the senior side.
Joining him are Beck Cutting, Alex Seville, and Joe Heyes, who all cover the front row, while Sam Lewis and Tom Willis cover the rest of the back. Rory Brand, a third former Wellington College player, covers scrum half, while Gabriel Ibitoye, one of the nominees for player of the tournament last year, covers the outside backs.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com ahead of the game, Steve Bates said:
“We’ve had a really good period of preparation ahead of this tournament with a hugely beneficial fixture against South Africa and a training session with Wales, it’s really helped to focus the minds of the players and we’ve seen a further improvement in training ahead of our first match of the championship against Argentina.”
“I want to see us play with a bit more patience on Wednesday, I don’t want us to lower our intensity, but if we play as we did during the Six Nations then we have the ability to create a lot of opportunities and we need to be patient in how we execute those chances.”
“We know the importance of winning every game in this tournament, and we need to go out on Wednesday with a real intent to get this campaign off to a positive start. We have an excellent squad of players, every position is competitive and this is an exciting England team that I’m looking forward to seeing perform on the world stage.”
England U20 v Argentina U20: Wednesday, 17.30 (BST), Narbonne (live on www.worldrugby.org)
England U20 XV:
15 Tom Parton (London Irish)
14 Ali Crossdale (Saracens)
13 Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints)
12 Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers)
11 Jordan Olowofela (Leicester Tigers)
10 James Grayson (Northampton Saints)
9 Ben White (Leicester Tigers)
1 Toby Trinder (Northampton Saints)
2 Henry Walker (Gloucester)
3 Ehren Painter (Northampton Saints)
4 Joel Kpoku (Saracens)
5 James Scott (Worcester Warriors)
6 Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors)
7 Ben Curry (Sale Sharks, captain)
8 Josh Basham (London Irish)
Replacements: 16 Beck Cutting (Worcester Warriors), 17 Alex Seville (Gloucester), 18 Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), 19 Sam Lewis (Leicester Tigers), 20 Tom Willis (Wasps), 21 Rory Brand (London Irish), 22 Marcus Smith (Harlequins), 23 Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins).
England’s World Rugby U20 Championship Fixtures:
Wednesday 30th May: v Argentina, 17.30 (BST), Narbonne
Sunday 3rd June: v Italy, 15.30 (BST), Perpignan
Thursday 7th June: v Scotland, 20.00 (BST), Beziers