The England U18 squad for their traditional summer tour of South Africa has been named.
The side will play three games on tour, against France U18 on 12th August, South Africa Schools A on the 16th, and against South Africa Schools on the 20th August, Wales U18 will also be touring, though England will not play them.
The squad is captained by Trinity and Harlequins star Gabriel Ibitoye, who also led England U18 to the U18 5 Nations Festival title. Head Coach John Fletcher was fulsome in his praise of Ibitoye, saying to www.englandrugby.com “He is one of our more experienced players, he has good energy and in terms of how we want to play and express ourselves Gabriel epitomises that every time he goes onto the field.”
Ibityoe is one of a number of players who will fly out following the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s finals on Sunday (you can see the squads for that here: Singha 7s). He will be joined in that competition at the Ricoh Arena by Quins teammate Dino Lamb-Cona (Cranleigh), and Sale Sharks’ Oundle duo of Ben and Tom Curry.
James Grayson, Ali Crossdale, Harry Simmons, Ted Hill, Josh Bayliss, Levi Davis, and Jacob Umaga have all also appeared in the tournament, though their teams were either knocked out in the group stages or they were not available for selection for the finals day on Sunday.
Wellington College are the most represented school in the squad, with Tom Parton, Matt Williams, Rory Brand, and Ben Loader all travelling, their presence also helps to make London Irish the most represented club, with Joe Cokanasiga also representing the club.
The 26-man squad will be rotated through the games in what Fletcher expects to be a tough series:
“The tour gives us an opportunity to play in the Southern Hemisphere in a different environment and against a very tough opposition, it also gives this group of players an opportunity to bond and for us to see how they adapt away from home. There will be different challenges as the opposition will pose different problems, our aim is to adapt and come up with the solutions to those problems.”
“We will stick to our principles in defence and attack and we expect the players to adapt on the field. The plan is to give the players a full tour experience, which is crucial to their development.”
The tour is crucial for the squad not just in terms of development, but also for their prospects of gaining England U20 caps next season, and England U20 Head Coach Martin Haag and assistant Rory Teague will both be in attendance for some of the tour alongside the U18 coaching staff of Fletcher, Peter Walton, Mark Luffman, Russell Earnshaw, and 2003 World Cup winner Richard Hill.
Many of the squad already have their club futures sorted, however for some, such as Denstone College’s Levi Davis, it represents another chance to put themselves in the shop window as they hunt for a contract.
England U18 Fixtures:
France U18 – Friday 12th August, 11.00
South Africa Schools A – Tuesday 16th August, 13.30
South Africa Schools – Saturday 20th August, 13.15
England U18 Squad:
Josh Bayliss (Millfield & Bath)
Jamie Blamire (Gosforth Academy & Newcastle Falcons)
Rory Brand (Wellington College & London Irish)
Joe Cokanasiga (Bushe Academy & London Irish)
Ben Curry (Oundle & Sale Sharks)
Tom Curry (Oundle & Sale Sharks)
Levi Davis (Denstone College & Unattached)
Ali Crossdale (Sedbergh & Saracens)
James Grayson (Moulton College & Northampton Saints)
Ted Hill (Worcester 6th form College & Worcester Warriors)
Gabriel Ibitoye (Trinity & Harlequins)
Ciaran Knight (St Peter’s High School & Gloucester)
Dino Lamb-Cona (Cranleigh & Harlequins)
Jarod Leat (St Paul’s Catholic College & Wasps)
Ben Loader (Wellington College & London Irish)
Sam Moore (Sedbergh & Sale Sharks)
Oli Morris (New Hall & Saracens)
Ehren Painter (Felsted & Northampton Saints)
Tom Parton (Wellington College & London Irish)
Alex Seville (Hartpury College & Gloucester)
Harry Simmons (Gresham’s & Leicester Tigers)
Jacob Umaga (Wyggeston & Queen Elizabeth I College & Wasps)
Henry Walker (Bromsgrove & Gloucester)
Matt Williams (Wellington College & London Irish)
Josh Williams (Hartlepool 6th form College & Newcastle Falcons)
Tom Willis (Henley College & Wasps)