The England U20 Elite Player Squad for the 2016/17 season has been named.
Head Coach Martin Haag, who guided England to the World Rugby U20 Championship title in Manchester this June, has picked an experienced 32-man squad, which will competed in the U20 6 Nations in the spring and will then travel to Georgia to defend their World Championship title in June.
Six players are retained from that U20 World Championship winning squad, former Wellington College winger Sam Aspland-Robinson, ex Abingdon fly half Theo Brophy-Clews, former Merchiston Castle number 8 Zach Mercer, Hartpury College leaver Harry Randall, ex Silcoates centre/wing Max Wright, and the former Felsted fly half, Max Malins.
Three of those have plenty of 1st team experience, Brophy-Clews was injured early on in the tournament in June but has extensive 1st XV experience, while Mercer has had regular game time for Bath under Todd Blackadder, and Max Wright is a regular for Yorkshire Carnegie. Randall, meanwhile, was still eligible for the U18s at last year’s tournament, so is definitely a man to look out for this year.
Four other players in the squad also have U20 experience, ex Warwick School half back Jamie Shillcock has been starting regularly at full back for Worcester Warriors, while Paolo Odogwu has starred for Sale Sharks on the wing, with Curtis Langdon gaining plenty of experience up front in at the same club, Saracens’ front rower Ralph Adams-Hale has also played for the U20s.
Of course the purpose of the U20s is really all about development, something that has really begun to shine through in recent years with the likes of Maro Itoje, Anthony Watson, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, and Jack Clifford all progressing rapidly from the U20s to the England senior set up.
Most recently Harlequins’ Joe Marchant and Leicester Tigers’ Will Evans were parachuted straight from the U20 World Championship winning squad into Eddie Jones’ extended Senior Elite Player Squad. They are an example that Haag was keen to highlight when speaking to www.englandrugby.com saying:
“Players like Joe Marchant and Will Evans should be the example of what this group can achieve and while we are proud of our recent record in major tournaments, this is the start of a new rugby journey with this talented group of players, this is the start of the development phase with a real focus on getting to know the players and giving them the opportunity to develop and adapt their skills”
“We have seen a large number of these players grow through the pathway and for us it’s about challenging and inspiring these guys to be the best they can individually and as a team.”
The 32-man squad will meet for the first time for a training block at Loughborough University towards the end of the month.
England U20 Elite Player Squad 2016/17
Ralph Adams-Hale (Saracens)
Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins)
Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons)
Theo Brophy Clews (London Irish)
Will Butler (Worcester Warriors)
Charlie Capps (Yorkshire Carnegie)
Josh Caulfield (Exeter Chiefs)
Justin Clegg (Worcester Warriors)
Joe Cokanasiga (London Irish)
Ali Crossdale (Saracens)
Ben Curry (Sale Sharks)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks)
Ollie Dawe (Bristol Rugby)
Ben Earl (Saracens)
Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors)
Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens)
Ciaran Knight (Gloucester Rugby)
Curtis Langdon (Sale Sharks)
Max Malins (Saracens)
Jack Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)
Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
Joseph Morris (Worcester Warriors)
Joe Mullis (Gloucester Rugby)
Jack Nay (Saracens)
Paolo Odogwu (Sale Sharks)
Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby)
Jamie Shillcock (Worcester Warriors)
Jacob Umaga (Wasps)
Max Wright (Yorkshire Carnegie)
Zac Xiourouppa (Worcester Warriors)