The Anglo-Welsh Cup begins this weekend, with many teams using it as a chance to blood some of the brightest young talents around.
The tournament has always been used to promote young players, but had to take a hiatus last year due to the effect of the Rugby World Cup and the squeeze it put on the calendar.
All that has done is to inject a huge amount of excitement into this year’s competition, where a number of school leavers are set to make their 1st XV debuts.
The action all begins on Friday evening with a huge fixture, Bath v Leicester Tigers. Both sides have gone heavy on youth, with Bath selecting former Sherborne star Will Homer at scrum half and ex Millfield and Scotland U20 pivot Adam Hastings at fly half. Hastings is one of a number of ex Millfield School stars in the squad, with Darren Atkins given his debut at full back and Gabriel Oghre, Tom Ellis, and Josh Bayliss on the bench, Oghre and Bayliss would be making their debuts.
Ex Dulwich College prop Beno Obano starts at loosehead from the first time, with youngster Alex Humfrey in the second row, and England U20 number 8 Zach Mercer competes the pack.
Leicester select Harry Wells and Joe Maksymiw in a youthful second row, with England bright young star Will Evans at openside. On the bench the likes of Oli Bryant, Charlie Thacker, and Fred Tuilagi will inject even more youth.
Firday also sees old rivals Worcester Warriors and Bristol meet. Worcester look particularly youthful with Max Stelling at outside centre and the former Warwick School all-rounder Jamie Shillcock at fly half. England U20 hooker Jack Singleton starts, as to his England U20 teammates Andrew Kitchener and Huw Taylor in the second and back rows respectively.
Former Bromsgrove star Justin Clegg could make his debut from the bench, where other youngsters such as Biyi Alo and George De Cothi also lurk. Bristol, in contrast, have named a very experienced side as they look to get a win following their coaching turmoil this week after their winless start to the season, they will be targeting this as a chance to turn things around.
Friday’s final game is Sale Sharks v Wasps. Sale have actually named a reasonably experienced team, or at least a team that is similar to their Premiership XVs.
Youth is very much a part of it though, in the back row in particular, where Ben Curry comes in at blindside for his first start. He is alongside twin brother Tom, at openside, who has featured a lot in recent weeks and became the Premierships third youngest try scorer last weekend. On the bench there is plenty of youth in the form of Curtis Langdon, Ciaran Parker, George Nott, and James Mitchell.
Wasps meanwhile have blended age and experience. Former Harrow star Owain James is at full back, with Henley College leaver Connor Eastgate at fly half. England U20 flanker Jack Willis is at blindside, with his U20 prop teammates Tom West and Will Stuart on the bench. St Benedict’s leaver Ehize Ehizode covers the second row, with last year’s England U18 fly half/centre, Jacob Umaga, on the bench alongside former Shiplake College wing, Tom Howe. Perhaps the most exciting of all though is 17 year old Will Porter of Merchant Taylors’ School, who is covering the scrum half position form the bench.
There are two fixtures on Saturday, beginning with Gloucester v Saracens. Gloucester have opted for a particularly youthful side. The highly talented and very exciting Mat Protheroe starts at full back, with his England U20 colleague form last year, Ollie Thorley, on the wing. Elliott Creed and Henry Purdy make up a youthful centre pairing, with former Dean Close fly half Lloyd Evans at fly half and former England U20 skipper Callum Braley at scrum half.
The pack is young but with a good amount of secnior gametime, Dan Thomas, skipper Lewis Ludlow, Freddie Clarke, Joe Batley, and Charlie Beckett have all had 1st team action.
On the bench Bromsgrove leaver Henry Walker gets a chance as does St Peter’s Gloucester leaver Ciaran Knight. Youngsters Will Safe and ben Vellacott are also amongst those included.
Saracens give a first team debut to former Millfield star Tom Whiteley, but in the unusual position of fly half. He is alongside his young scrum half rival Ben Spencer, with another young scrum half, Henry Taylor, on the bench awaiting his debut.
England U20 World Championship winner and England Saxon Nick Tompkins is in the centre, along with a World U20 Championship winger from this year, Matt Gallagher, the former Whitgift captain. Up front Haileybury leaver Nick Isiekwe makes his debut, with former England U20 World Championship winner Joel Conlon also making his debut, on the blindside flank.
Alongside Taylor on the bench are two school leavers in Tonbridge’s Ben Earl and Berkhamsted’s Jack Nay, while 2016 World U20 Championship winner George Perkins is also there, as is the 2014 winger, Nathan Earle, while covering prop are two further young stars, Hayden Thompson-Stringer and Billy Walker.
Saturday’s second fixtures sees Harlequins host Exeter Chiefs. Former England U20 star Aaron Morris makes his debut at full back for Quins, with the ex Peter Symonds’, England U18, England U20, and now extended EPS member, Joe Marchant, at outside centre.
Whitgift olf boy Stan South is in the second row, with former Brighton College skipper and former World U20 Player of the Year, James Chisholm, at blindside flanker. Cranleigh old boy Charlie Piper is on the bench, as is new singing from Wales, Luc Jones.
Exeter look highly experienced, though in truth much of that is due to their young players getting so much 1st XV action. They are giving plenty of youth a run though, encapsulated by the fact that the team is skippered by former Blundell’s star and England U20 scrum half, Jack Maunder.
Maunder keeps out another exciting young scrum half, Stuart Townsend, who is on the bench along with the likes of Joe Simmonds and Harry Strong.
Sunday sees just the one game, Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints. Newcastle look reasonably experience, by England U20 number 8 Callum Chick starts, as does Scotland U20 lock Andrew Davidson, and the former England U20 lock Will Witty.
Saints have gone for a great mix of youth and experience. Former Oundle star Sam Olver starts at fly half, with ex Felsted man Rory Hutchinson at inside centre. Moulton College old boy Howard Packman is on the wing.
Up front Lewis Ludlam makes his debut, and the former St Joseph’s College skipper and England U20 star moves from his usual flanker role to the number 8 shirt. Stowe old boy Jordan Onojaife starts at six, rather than his usual second row slot, and he could be joined by his brother Devante, who is on the bench alongside Sedbergh and Trent College old boys Alex Moon and James Fish respectively.
Anglo-Welsh Cup Fixtures:
Bath v Leicester Tiger – 19.45
Worcester Warriors v Bristol – 19.45
Sale Sharks v Wasps – 20.15
Gloucester v Saracens – 15.00
Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs – 17.30
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints – 15.00
15 Darren Atkins, 14 Jeff Williams, 13 Aled Brew, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Jack Wilson, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Will Homer, 1 Beno Obano, 2 Michael van Vuuren, 3 Shaun Knight, 4 Elliott Stooke, 5 Alex Humfrey, 6 Levi Douglas, 7 Guy Mercer (c), 8 Zach Mercer.
Replacements: 16 Gabriel Oghre, 17 Max Lahiff ,18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Darren Allinson, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Rory Jennings.
15 George Worth, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Matt Smith (c), 12 Jack Roberts, 11 George Catchpole, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jono Kitto, 1 Greg Bateman, 2 Harry Thacker, 3 Fraser Balmain, 4 Harry Wells, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 6 Luke Hamilton, 7 Will Evans, 8 Tomas Leonardi.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Fred Tuilagi, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Oli Bryant, 23 Charlie Thacker.
15 Chris Pennell (c), 14 Josh Adams, 13 Max Stelling, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Andy Short, 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Michael Dowsett, 1 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 2 Jack Singleton, 3 James Johnston, 4 Andrew Kitchener, 5 Charlie Hewitt, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 7 Huw Taylor, 8 Matt Cox.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Justin Clegg, 20 Sam Ripper-Smith, 21 George de Cothi, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Afeafe Haisila Lokotui.
- Jack Wallace, 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 James Newey, 11 David Lemi (c), 10 Billy Searle, 9 Rhodri Williams, 1 Soane Tonga’uiha, 2 Rob Hawkins, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 5 Ian Evans, 6 Nick Koster, 7 Olly Robinson, 8.Nick Fenton-Wells.
Replacements: 16 Edd Shervington, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 James Hall, 19 John Hawkins, 20 Rayn Smid, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Elias Caven, 23 Luke Arscott.
15 Tom Arscott, 14 Nev Edwards, 13 Sam Bedlow, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Charlie Ingall, 10 Sam James, 9 Mike Phillips (c), 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Cameron Neild, 3 Brian Mujati, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 5 Lou Reed, 6 Ben Curry, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Laurence Pearce.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 James Flynn, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 George Nott, 20 Matt Rogerson, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Josh Charnley.
15 Owain James, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Brendan Macken, 11 Guy Armitage, 10 Connor Eastgate, 9 Craig Hampson, 1 Tom Bristow, 2 Tom Cruse, 3 Phil Swainston, 4 Marcus Garratt, 5 Will Rowlands, 6 Jack Willis, 7 Alex Rieder, 8 Guy Thompson (c).
Replacements: 16 George Edgson, 17 Tom West, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Ehize Ehizode, 20 Alistair Bone, 21 Will Porter, 22 Jacob Umaga, 23 Tom Howe.
15 Mat Protheroe, 14 David Halaifonua, 13 Henry Purdy, 12 Elliott Creed, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Lloyd Evans, 9 Callum Braley, 1 Cameron Orr, 2 Joe Mullis, 3 Salesi Ma’afu, 4 Charlie Beckett, 5 Joe Batley, 6 Freddie Clarke, 7 Dan Thomas, 8 Lewis Ludlow (c).
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Paul Doran-Jones, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Harry Wilson, 20 Will Safe, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Tom Hudson, 23 Harry Robinson.
15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Tom Griffiths, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Tom Whiteley, 9 Ben Spencer, 1 Richard Barrington, 2 Scott Spurling, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 Mark Flanagan, 5 Nick Isiekwe, 6 Joel Conlon, 7 Kelly Brown (c), 8 Samu Vunisa.
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Billy Walker, 19 Jack Nay, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Nathan Earle, 23 George Perkins.
15 Aaron Morris, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 James Lang, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Mark Lambert, 2 Joe Gray, 3 Will Collier, 4 Stan South, 5 Charlie Matthews, 6 James Chisholm, 7 Dave Ward (c), 8 Mat Luamanu.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Luc Jones 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Ross Chisholm.
15 Phil Dollman, 14 Max Bodilly, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Sam Hill, 11 James Short, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Jack Maunder (c), 1 Ben Moon, 2 Shaun Malton, 3 Greg Holmes, 4 Ollie Atkins, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 8 Tom Johnson.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Moray Low, 18 Billy Keast, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Harry Strong.
15 Alex Tait (c), 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Fred Burdon, 12 Craig Willis, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Michael Young, 1 Sam Lockwood, 2 Ben Sowrey, 3 David Wilson, 4 Will Witty, 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Ally Hogg, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 8 Callum Chick.
Replacement: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Glen Young, 20 Joshua Chisanga, 21 Sam Egerton, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Dominic Waldouck.
15 James Wilson, 14 Howard Packman, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Sam Olver, 9 Tom Kessell, 1 Ethan Waller, 2 Charlie Clare, 3 Paul Hill, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 5 Christian Day (c), 6 Jordan Onojaife, 7 Jamie Gibson, 8 Lewis Ludlam.
Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Matt Beesley, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Devante Onojaife, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Juan Pablo Estelles, 23 Jamie Elliott.