England have named their side for their opening fixture of their home World Rugby U20 Championship.
The hosts face Italy at the Manchester City Academy Stadium at 19.45 tomorrow, the last of three games at that venue on the day. Italy were the only side that England beat in the U20 RBS 6 Nations as they slumped to a surprising 5th place finish, despite boasting a very strong squad.
Tomorrow’s team is packed with talent, with a huge number of players both in the starting side and on the bench who have played for their club 1st XVs. Such is the strength of the squad that captain and hooker Jack Walker, the youngest ever player to captain Yorkshire Carnegie and who is now moving to Bath, is on the bench, behind Worcester’s Jack Singleton, with the man at his third Junior World Cup staying fresh for potentially tougher challenges down the line.
In Walker’s absence Harry Mallinder will captain the side. The inside centre has been a sensation for Northampton Saints this season, despite only just being out of Rugby School.
Mallinder is surrounded by other with extensive senior experience too. Outside him Joe Marchant has starred for Harlequins, while inside him Theo Brophy-Clews has been in fine form at outside half for London Irish. It is a sign of just how strong the midfield is that Johnny Williams, London Irish’s star young midfield cog this season, is on the bench.
In the back three former Cheltenham College man Ollie Thorley is on the left wing, having represented Gloucester on a number of occasions this year. Wellington College old boy Sam Aspland-Robinson is on the right, with former Millfield star Darren Atkins at full back. Max Green, a regular for Yorkshire Carneige this season, is at scrum half. England U18 and Hartpury College scrum half Harry Randall is on the bench.
Either side of Singleton in the front row are Wasps’ Tom West and Saracens’ Billy Walker, while in the second for it is an all Worcester Warriors pairing of Andrew Kitchener and Huw Taylor.
Former England U18 skipper Callum Chick is at number 8, with Wasps’ Jack Willis at openside, while local boy George Nott is on the blindside flank.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com new England U20 Head Coach Martin Haag said in the build up:
“Training has been fantastic, the boys have really bought into what we are trying to achieve on the field but I’m also really pleased with how they are gelling as a squad off the field. When you come together with players and staff from all different rugby backgrounds it can sometimes be hard to quickly gel but we have a real sense of togetherness and an incredible team spirit.”
“I’m delighted with how the first couple of days have gone but the real test is how we perform in games and the squad can’t wait to get started. We have done our analysis on Italy but the priority in training has been what we can do as a team, how we constantly improve and drive standards.”
“We want our play to have its own identity and have concentrated on that. We know that Italy are going to be stronger than they were in the Six Nations and will pose us some real problems but we are also looking forward to reacting to the opportunities we get through both attack and defence. We have three tough games and want to start well in the tournament so have selected on form and fitness as we manage players over what will be a demanding few weeks.”
England U20 v Italy U20 – Manchester City Academy Stadium, tomorrow, 19.45, Live on Sky Sports 1
England U20 XV
15 Darren Atkins (Bath Rugby)
14 Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins)
13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins)
12 Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints, captain)
11 Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby)
10 Theo Brophy-Clews (London Irish)
9 Max Green (Yorkshire Carnegie)
1 Tom West (Wasps)
2 Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors)
3 Billy Walker (Saracens)
4 Andrew Kitchener (Worcester Warriors)
5 Huw Taylor (Worcester Warriors)
6 George Nott (Sale Sharks)
7 Jack Willis (Wasps)
8 Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons)
16 Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie)
17 Lewis Boyce (Yorkshire Carnegie)
18 Will Stuart (Wasps)
19 Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby)
20 Josh Bainbridge (Yorkshire Carnegie)
21 Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby)
22 Johnny Williams (London Irish)
23 Max Malins (Saracens)