England have run the changes for their game against Italy on Friday night Darlington Mowden Park’s Northern Echo Arena.
In total there are eight changes to the side that came from behind to beat Wales last week for Friday’s 19.45 kick off.
Ben Earl is out with a knee injury, so Merchiston Castle old boy Zach Mercer takes over the captaincy. Speaking to England Rugby ahead of the game, England Under 20 coach Tom Williams said of Mercer’s captaincy:
“Zach Mercer loves to chat among the group and isn’t afraid of expressing his opinion. That coupled with his leadership qualities and experience meant that he was the first name that came to mind when we lost Ben Earl through injury.”
Mercer is joined in the back row by Sale Sharks’ Ben Curry, who makes his first appearances of the championships, at openside, twin brother Tom heads back to Sale Sharks, who seem to be retaining one Curry twin per round. At late injury to Saracens’ Jack Nay sees Bath’s Josh Bayliss start on the blindside flank, the former Millfield captain has come off the bench in the last two games.
In the second round Exeter Chiefs’ Josh Cauldfield starts for the first time, he joins Haileybury old boy Nick Isiekwe, the Saracens man has been an ever present for the U20s so far this campaign.
Bristol’s Ollie Dawe remains at loosehead, but alongside him in the front row Newcastle Falcons’ Jamie Blamire and Gloucester’s Ciaran Knight come in for their first starts of the U20 6 Nations.
In the backline Lymm High School old boy Alex Mitchell gets a first start at scrum half, the Northampton Saints man is partnered by Wasps’ Jacob Umaga, who starts at 10 for the second round running.
Yorkshire Carnegie’s Max Wright switches form outside centre to inside centre, with New Hall old boy Dominic Morris, of Saracens, starting at outside centre.
London Irish’s Tom Parton remains at full abck for the third game in a row, his former Wellington College teammate, Sam Aspland-Robinson, returns to the side on the right wing. The Harlequins man’s wing partner is his clubmate, and last year’s England U18 and Trinity School captain, Gabriel Ibitoye.
The real excitement though is on the England bench, where three U18s have been selected in Exeter Chiefs’ Marcus Street and Harlequins’ Marcus Smith, and Worcester Warriors’ Ted Hill. All three have impressed for their schools and their clubs this season and for the past few years, but the call up to the England U20 matchday squad is a quite exceptional achievement.
Brighton College’s Smith was one of the star players as Harlequins secured the U18 Academy League title last week, and was one of our top players of the day, while Exeter College’s Street was a part of the Exeter Chiefs side that secured 3rd place in that competition, Worcester 6th form College’s Ted Hill meanwhile captained Worcester Warriors form number 8 to fifth place overall with a win over Saracens.
Joining them on the bench are Gloucester front row duo Henry Walker and Alex Seville, with Sedbergh old boy Max Davies, currently at Newcastle Falcons, and Bath’s Millfield old boy Josh Bayliss completing the replacements in the pack. Joining Smith as backs replacements are Wellington College old boy Rory Brand, who covers scrum half, and his London Irish teammate, Joe Cokanasiga.
England U20 v Italy U20 – Friday, 19.45, Northern Echo Arena, Live on Sky Sports Mix
England U20 XV
15 Tom Parton (London Irish), 14 Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins), 13 Dominic Morris (Saracens), 12 Max Wright (Yorkshire Carnegie), 11 Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins), 10 Jacob Umaga (Wasps), 9 Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints), 1 Ollie Dawe (Bristol), 2 Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons), 3 Ciaran Knight (Gloucester), 4 Josh Caulfield (Exeter Chiefs), 5 Nick Isiekwe (Saracens), 6 Jack Nay (Saracens), 7 Ben Curry (Sale Sharks), 8 Zach Mercer (Bath, captain).
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker (Gloucester), 17 Alex Seville (Gloucester), 18 Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs), 19 Max Davies (Newcastle Falcons), 20 Josh Bayliss (Bath), 21 Rory Brand (London Irish), 22 Marcus Smith (Harlequins), 23 Joe Cokanasiga (London Irish).