England have named Marcus Smith and Ben Curry in their 28-man World Rugby U20 Championship squad.
The two are included despite having been involved in various senior squads over the past couple of seasons, and having featured extensively for their clubs this season, with Smith making 28 appearances for Harlequins and Curry featuring 30 times for Sale Sharks.
They will not be joined, however, by England’s captain in the U20 6 Nations, Ben Earl, the Saracens man is with the senior England squad, alongside his clubmate Nick Isiekwe, Sale Sharks’ Sedbergh schoolboy sensation Cameron Redpath, and Curry’s twin brother Tom, who are all involved in Eddie Jones’ senior squad and are therefore unavailable despite being eligible for Steve Bates’ U20 squad.
Eight members of the 28-man group were part of the squad that reached last year’s final, where they were beaten by New Zealand.
Gloucester front rowers Alex Seville, Henry Walker, and Ciaran Knight all return for a second crack, so too Northampton Saints fly half James Grayson, Worcester Warriors centre Will Butler, and outside backs Tom Parton, Gabriel Ibitoye, and the fit again Ali Crossdale, of London Irish, Harlequins, and Saracens respectively.
Joining the Gloucester trio and Ben Curry in the forward pack are a number of players with Aviva Premiership experience, including London Irish’s Josh Basham, Wasps’ Tom Willis, and Northampton Saints’ Ehren Painter. Alongside them are Worcester Warriors; Beck Cutting, Ted Hill, and James Scott, Leicester Tigers’ Joe Heyes and Sam Lewis, Gloucester’s Aaron Hinkley, Saracens’ Joel Kpoku, Wasps’ Gabriel Oghre, and Northampton Saints’ Toby Trinder.
In the backline there are further players with Aviva Premiership experience with Leicester Tigers pair Ben White and Jordan Olowofela both selected, as is London Irish’s Ben Loader, who was a part of the England training squad last week alongside Marcus Smith.
Joining those four and the five players returning from last year is London Irish scrum half Rory Brand, Northampton Saints’ Fraser Dingwall, and Leicester Tigers’ Tom Hardwick.
The squad are aiming for a six World Rugby U20 Championship final in a row, and a fourth title that time have won in 2013, 2014, and 2016. They will be without three key players from the Six Nations though in Dino Lamb-Cona, Sam Moore, and Marcus Street.
Their challenge begins on Wednesday 30th May against Argentina in Narbonne, highlights of which will be available on ITV. The two are joined in Group B by Italy and Scotland, with the game against Italy on Sunday 3rd June, and Scotland on Thursday 7th June.
The winners of each group and the best second place side then head to the semi finals, with the remaining second place sides and the top two third place sides competing in the 5th-8th place semis, the remaining sides compete in the 9th-12th place semis, all of which take place on the 12th June, while Finals day is on Sunday 17th June in Beziers.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com upon the announcement of the squad, Head Coach Steve Bates said:
“Selection has been incredibly difficult as there were a lot of players to choose from and in some positions it’s been a really tight call, we saw real glimpses of what this team is capable of during the Six Nations, and I was proud of the way they performed.”
“The challenge for us now is to consistently play high-intensity, high-tempo rugby and to turn up the heat on our opposition for the full 80 minutes. The World Rugby U20 Championship is a fantastic tournament and for some this will be the pinnacle of their international careers.”
“Some will go on to be very good professionals but not all will play international rugby again so they should look at this as a fantastic opportunity to play on the world stage and showcase their ability while representing England.”
“The message going into this tournament is we are expecting much more of the players as individuals and a team and although we have a proud history in this tournament, we want to leave our own legacy.”
England U20 Squad:
Josh Basham (London Irish)
Ben Curry (Sale Sharks)
Beck Cutting (Worcester Warriors)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers)
Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors)
Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester Rugby)
Ciaran Knight (Gloucester Rugby)
Joel Kpoku (Saracens)
Sam Lewis (Leicester Tigers)
Gabriel Oghre (Wasps)
Ehren Painter (Northampton Saints)
James Scott (Worcester Warriors)
Alex Seville (Gloucester Rugby)
Toby Trinder (Northampton Saints)
Henry Walker (Gloucester Rugby)
Tom Willis (Wasps)
Rory Brand (London Irish)
Will Butler (Worcester Warriors)
Ali Crossdale (Saracens)
Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints)
James Grayson (Northampton Saints)
Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers)
Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
Ben Loader (London Irish)
Jordan Olowofela (Leicester Tigers)
Tom Parton (London Irish)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
Ben White (Leicester Tigers)
England U20 fixtures:
Wednesday 30th May: v Argentina, Narbonne, 5.30pm (BST), highlights on ITV
Sunday 3rd June: v Italy, Perpignan, 3.30pm (BST), highlights on ITV
Thursday 7th June: v Scotland, Beziers, 8pm (BST), highlights on ITV
Tuesday 12th June: Semi Finals
Sunday 17th June: Finals