England U20 have named their squad to defend their IRB Junior World Championship title this June in New Zealand.
The twenty-eight man squad includes seven players who were in involved in last yearâ€™s JWC winning squad, as well as a whole host of stars from the 2012/13 Schools Rugby scene.
The squad is captained by Bristol scrum half Callum Braley, who also led England to second place in this yearâ€™s U20s RBS 6 Nations campaign, and spoke of his excitement ahead of the competition:
â€œItâ€™s massively exciting to be heading down to New Zealand to defend our title. Rugby is obviously huge over there and there will be some pressure on us, but we will use that as a positive and look to perform as best we can.â€
Braley is the only Bristol man in the squad, and is one of five players currently not contracted to a Premiership side, they are fellow scum half and Cranleigh old boy Henry Taylor, currently at Loughborough University, Aaron Morris at Bedford Blues, and the Leeds Carnegie front row pair of Paul Hill and Jack Walker.
Last yearâ€™s England U18 captain and former Brighton College number 8, James Chisholm is in the squad, his Harlequins teammate Harry Sloan will be looking for a spot in the centres.
Competition in the centre will be fierce though, with Northampton Saintsâ€™ rising star Tom Stephenson, and last yearâ€™s Oaklands College, Saracens, and England U18 star Nick Tompkins jostling for position too.
The battle for fly half will be between Gloucesterâ€™s Billy Burns, brother of Freddie, and Northampton Saints and former Oundle pivot, Sam Olver.
London Irishâ€™s sole representative in the squad is the promising Tom Fowlie, he, Henry Purdy, Nathan Earle, and the exciting Howard Packman, as well as Morris, will compete for spaces in the back three.
In the forward pack the competition is almost more intense, perhaps nowhere more so than in the second row. Englandâ€™s depth of talent there is truly outstanding, they have the brilliant Bath duo of Tom Ellis and Charlie Ewels, formerly of rival schools Millfield and Bryanston respectively, as well as Gloucesterâ€™s Jonny Hill and one of the stars of the Six Nations campaign, Harrow old boy Maro Itoje.
The back row is no less competitive, Exeter Chiefs Joel Conlon, Gloucesterâ€™s Ross Moriarty, London Wasps and Varsity rugby star Gus Jones, and the aforementioned Chisholm will all battle for a places here, with Itoje and Ellis both capable of slotting back here too, as are many of the front row.
Joining the Leedsâ€™ Walker at hooker are Leicester Tigersâ€™ Harry Thacker and Charlie Ewelsâ€™ former school teammate, current Bath teammate, and now England U20 teammate, Tom Woolstencroft.
At Prop Saracensâ€™ Biyi Alo, Northamptonâ€™s Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Leicesterâ€™s Harry Rudkin, and London Waspsâ€™ former Hampton star Alex Lundberg will all compete with Paul Hill for the starting berths.
At the announcement of his squad, England U20 Head Coach Nick Walshe spoke of his confidence in the squad:
â€œWeâ€™re pleased with the balance and experience in this squad, and we are confident that they will perform well in each of our five matches.â€
â€œWhile England U20 are the holders of the trophy, this group hasnâ€™t won anything â€“ we enjoyed a successful Six Nations, and while it was disappointing not to win it, as a group we came on hugely. The key is to keep building on that momentum.â€
Forwards coach Ian Peel spoke of the focus being on their opening encounter against Italy on the 2nd June:
â€œOur focus is on that first game against Italy. We have a warm up match and a camp in Newcastle prior to flying out, but the plan is to build towards that opening match. The games come thick and fast in this tournament, weâ€™ve got a very tough group but weâ€™re excited by that challenge.â€
2nd June v Italy â€“ Pukekohe
6th June v Australia â€“ Auckland
10th June v Argentina – Auckland
England U20 Squad:
Biyi Alo (Saracens)â€¨ James Chisholm (Harlequins)â€¨ Joel Conlon (Exeter Chiefs)â€¨ Tom Ellis (Bath Rugby)â€¨ Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby)â€¨ Jonny Hill (Gloucester Rugby)â€¨ Paul Hill (Leeds Carnegie)â€¨ Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Northampton Saints)â€¨ Maro Itoje (Saracens)â€¨ Gus Jones (London Wasps)â€¨ Alex Lundberg (London Wasps)â€¨ Ross Moriarty (Gloucester Rugby)â€¨ Harry Rudkin (Leicester Tigers)â€¨ Harry Thacker (Leicester Tigers)â€¨ Jack Walker (Leeds Carnegie)â€¨ Tom Woolstencroft (Bath Rugby).
Callum Braley (Bristol Rugby, captain)â€¨ Billy Burns (Gloucester Rugby)â€¨ Nathan Earle (Saracens)â€¨ Tom Fowlie (London Irish)â€¨ Aaron Morris (Bedford Blues)â€¨ Sam Olver (Northampton Saints)â€¨ Henry Purdy (Leicester Tigers)â€¨ Howard Packman (Northampton Saints)â€¨ Harry Sloan (Harlequins)â€¨ Tom Stephenson (Northampton Saints) â€¨Henry Taylor (Loughborough University)â€¨ Nick Tompkins (Saracens).