This weekend we go back to our series looking at England U20 XVs through the years of the IRB Junior World Championship/World Rugby U20 Championships.
In previous issues we have looked at the England teams of 2009 and 2008, the first year of the IRB Junior World Championships as an U20 event.
This week we take a look at the England class of 2010. It was actually one of their worst performances of the Championships, they lost to Australia in the semi finals, and ended up in fourth place having been beaten 22-27 by South Africa in the third place play off.
New Zealand went on to win it, beating Australia by a stunning 62-17 margin in the final with a side that included Luke Whitelock, Telusa Veainu, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tyler Bleyendaal, and a certain Julian Savea.
Though it might not have been England’s most successful year as U20s, as you will see from the side below, it more than did its job as a production line of talent.
England U20 XV – 2010 IRB Junior World Championship 3rd Place Play Off
15 Tom Homer – Bath
Homer was something of a veteran by the time this tournament came around, having featured in the 2009 final. One of the most highly rated in the team but never quite managed to make the jump that some of the others did.
14 Christian Wade – British & Irish Lions, England, & Wasps
Wade has developed a reputation as one of the most elusive and dangerous runners in the Premiership. Four years ago he earned an England cap and managed an injury call up to the successful British and Irish Lions squad, but has never quite managed to force his way into international coaches plans.
13 Jonny May – England & Leicester Tigers
A winger in this game and for a while it was a possible position as a pro, but rightly considered an out and out winger now. Spent most of his career at Gloucester and has been in and out of the England side, scoring memorably v New Zealand, he moved to Leicester Tigers this summer and has established himself as arguably the form winger in the league (though a certain Rokoduguni may disagree).
12 Tom Casson – Yorkshire Carnegie
The Sedbergh educated man moved swiftly from Saracens to Harlequins after this tournament, for whom he made plenty of appearances. He has since moved on to Yorkshire Carnegie as they try to return to the top flight.
11 Marcus Watson – Wasps & England 7s
Part of the awesome London Irish Academy, Watson went on to become one of the stars of the England 7s sides at the HSBC World 7s Series. Last year he returned to the fifteen-a-side field, and he is making a name for himself at high-flying Wasps, though his brother Anthony at Bath is perhaps stealing a fair bit of the family limelight at the moment.
10 Freddie Burns – Bath & England
Burns had a successful spell at Gloucester before another at Leicester Tigers, then moving to Bath this summer in a swap for George Ford. The undoubted highlight of his career though came in 2012 when he made his England debut against New Zealand, coming on late on and slotting a kick to help confirm Stuart Lancaster’s most famous England win.
9 Sam Harrison – Leicester Tigers
Harrison might not have hit the heights of some of his backline colleagues, but he has been a stalwart for Leicester Tigers. Forever stuck behind Ben Youngs, who wore the U20 shirt for the two years prior to Harrison, he has been a consistent man for Leicester to turn to, particularly with Youngs so often absent with England.
1 Joe Marler – British & Irish Lions, England, & Harlequins
One part of surely England’s greatest U20 front row. Marler’s career may have had its disciplinary issues, but he has been one of the great U20 success stories. Toured with the British & Irish Lions as they drew with New Zealand in 2017 and has won over 50 England caps and captained Harlequins. A truly top class player.
2 Jamie George – British & Irish Lions, England, & Saracens
This was George’s second stint with the U20s, and while not as successful as the first, it gave him valuable game time with Marler, Vunipola, and Kruis, combinations that have since paid off at club (in the case of Vunipola and Kruis), country, and Lions level. A classy player.
3 Mako Vunipola – British & Irish Lions, England, & Saracens
On graduating to senior rugby Mako made the switch to the loosehead side of the scrum, from which he has emerged as a world class player. A Test starter in all three Lions tests in New Zealand and involved in all three in Australia, he is one of the most skillful forwards on the planets. Having shed a few pounds since his U20 days too, he has become even more of a threat than he was back then.
4 Calum Green – Newcastle Falcons
After a decent number of appearances for Leicester Tigers, Green dropped down a division to Yorkshire Carnegie in 2012. However he shortly bounced back up by joining Newcastle Falcons, where he has become a strong presence in their engine room.
5 George Kruis – British & Irish Lions, England, & Saracens
Kruis studied at the feet of Steve Borthwick in his early years at Saracens and has taken that tutelage and used it to become a top class lock in his own right. Started the first test in New Zealand in the summer for the Lions and is one of England and Saracens’ most important forwards.
6 Will Welch – Newcastle Falcons
Two years after this fixture, Welch became Newcastle Falcons’ youngest ever club captain at just 22. He led the side to promotion from the Championship and has been virtually an ever-present since. Calls for England caps have often come from within the Falcons camp, but is yet to force his way into the national setup.
7 Jacob Rowan (c) – Gloucester
Like Welch, Rowan became his club’s youngest ever captain two years after this tournament when Yorkshire Carnegie named him skipper. He has since moved to Gloucester and the Leeds side’s captaincy has been in the hands of an even younger man in Jack Walker, now at Bath, but it was confirmation of the leadership qualities that he demonstrated as an U20. Not a mainstay of the Gloucester back row, but a consistent performer.
8 Jamie Gibson – Northampton Saints, England Saxons, & England (non-cap)
Gibson is one of the most consistent performers in the Premiership, and in the lead up to the 2015 World Cup he almost forced his way to international honours, appearing in non-cap games against the Barbarians in 2012 and 2014. He also almost played in a couple of Varsity matches but injury cost him. Started out with London Irish before moving to Leicester Tigers, and then, controversially, Northampton Saints, for whom he has been a truly dependable player.
16 Rob Buchanan – Harlequins
17 Shaun Knight – Bath & England Saxons
18 Charlie Matthews – (Harlequins)
19 Alex Gray – Atlanta Falcons, NFL (Previously with England 7s)
20 Charlie Davies – Newport Gwent Dragons
21 Rory Clegg – Ealing Trailfinders & England Saxons
22 Sam Smith – Worcester Warriors
The exciting news from this bench comes from Alex Gray, who went on to captain the side the following year. He forged a great career with England 7s, before earlier this year announcing that he was off to the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons. Rob Buchanan has been a 100 cap stalwart for Harlequins, and has come so close to an England cap on a number of occasions, Charlie Matthews alongside him has become a fixture for Quins too.
Charlie Davies, who was at Stade Francais at the time of these championships, is now in Wales with the Dragons. It was a sign of the strength of this squad that players with the quality of Saracens’ Jackson Wray did not make the squad for this 3rd place play off.
Shaun Knight was in his second tournament and has since won England caps, so too Rory Clegg, while Sam Smith enjoyed a number of appearances for Harlequins before moving to Worcester Warriors.
If you have any tales from U20 XVs of the past then do get in touch and let us know! Next time we will take a look at the exciting crop from 2011.