Nick Walshe has made four changes to his England U20s Elite Player Squad in preparation for the forthcoming U20s Six Nations.
Bath Hooker Tom Woolstencroft, who was a member of our Fifteen Rugby All Star School Squad at the end of last season, is one of the call-ups, alongside Northampton Saintsâ€™ wing Tom Collins, Bedford Bluesâ€™ Aaron Morris, and Worcester Warriorsâ€™ centre Max Stelling.
They replace Sale Sharksâ€™ Cameron Neild, Leicester Tigersâ€™ George Cathchpole, Harlequinsâ€™ Jordan Burns, and Bathâ€™s Anthony Watson, who has demonstrated the wonderful stepping stone that the U20s is, having been named in the updated Saxons squad and also in Stuart Lancaster â€˜s full England Six Nations squad.
Walshe spoke of his pride at Watsonâ€™s move from the U20s into the senior squad, where another U20s World Cup winner, Jack Nowell, joins him, while Henry Slade is also called into the Saxons:
â€œIt is fantastic to see the likes of Antony Watson, Jack Nowell and Henry Slade graduate to the England Senior teams so soon after representing the Under 20s. It is a real testament to the programme and hopefully many more will follow over the coming years.”
The rest of the U20s squad remains the same as that which was named in the summer, and they will press on ahead into the Six Nations, where they will be looking for their fourth successive title, beginning with an evening kick off against France on 31st January.
That game is followed by a trip to Netherdale to play Scotland, one of three away fixtures in this seasonâ€™s campaign, something that Walshe acknowledged would be a challenge for his young squad:
â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to this Six Nations â€“ we have a young squad, but a strong squad with players who have considerable experience at this level, and our emphasis is on performing to our potential.â€
â€œWe head over to France for the opening game and we know how tough it will be. With three away fixtures itâ€™s always going to be a challenge, but itâ€™s one I feel we have prepared well for and are looking forward to.â€
The Scotland game is on the 7th February and is followed by two home games against Ireland and Wales (at Franklinâ€™s Gardens & Kingston Park) on the 22nd February and the 7th March respectively, both of which will be shown live on Sky Sports, before the campaign is rounded off on the 14th March with a trip to Italy.
England U20s Six Nations Fixtures:
France â€“ Friday 31st January, Stade Leo Lagrange, Paris â€“ 19.55
Scotland â€“ Friday 7th February, Netherdale, Galashiels â€“ 19.30
Ireland â€“ Saturday 22nd February, Franklinâ€™s Gardens, Northampton â€“ 18.15 (Sky Sports)
Wales â€“ Friday 7th March, Kingston Park, Newcastle â€“ 19.45 (Sky Sports)
Italy â€“ Friday 14th March, Campo Cmunale La Colombera, Brecia – TBC
England U20s EPS
Forwards: James Chisholm (Harlequins) Joel Conlon (Exeter Chiefs) Tom Ellis (Bath) Charlie Ewels (Bath) Paul Hill (Leeds Carnegie) Jonny Hill (Gloucester) Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Northampton Saints) Maro Itoje (Saracens) Gus Jones (London Wasps) Lewis Ludlow (Gloucester) Alex Lundberg (London Wasps) Ross Moriarty (Gloucester) Will Owen Harry Rudkin Harry Thacker (All Leicester Tigers) Scott Wilson (Newcastle Falcons) Tom Woolstencroft (Bath).
Backs: Callum Braley (Bristol) Billy Burns (Gloucester) Tom Collins (Northampton Saints) Nathan Earle (Saracens) Louis Grimoldby (Harlequins) Zach Kibirige (Newcastle Falcons) Aaron Morris (Bedford Blues) Sam Olver Howard Packman (Both Northampton Saints) Henry Purdy (Leicester Tigers) Harry Sloan (Harlequins) Tom Stephenson (Northampton Saints) Max Stelling (Worcester Warriors) Nick Tompkins (Saracens) Stuart Townsend (Exeter Chiefs).