England have named their side for tomorrow’s World Rugby U20 Championship semi final against South Africa.
The Group A winners face the Group C table toppers at 3pm BST and the game will be shown live on ITV 4.
England will be aiming for a fifth final in a row. They have won three of the last four competitions, beating Wales in the 2013 final, South Africa in 2014, and Ireland last year, their only defeat coming in 2014 against New Zealand.
Tomorrow’s game will be tough though, South Africa have looked impressive, particularly in beating Argentina by a stunning 72-14 margin last time out.
England have three wins from three, but have been searching for their very best form, particularly with the likes of Tom Curry, Ben Curry, Joe Cokanasiga, Jack Maunder, and Nick Isiekwe all in Argentina with the senior side, while they are also missing Sam Aspland-Robinson, Dominic Morris, Ali Crossdale, Max Wright, and Will Evans, among others, with injury.
That has meant yet more call ups, with Northampton Saints’ James Grayson and England 7s star Callum Sirker both joining up with the squad, and England U20 coach Tom Williams was quick to praise the contribution of the injured players, saying:
“It’s disappointing to have lost Max, along with Ali Crossdale, Dom Morris and Sam Aspland-Robinson, they have made a huge contribution, however, the guys that have come in have done really well, helped fill the void and I’m sure James and Callum will do likewise. “
“Having also seen five players called into the senior squad for Argentina, it shows the strength in depth that we have in the player pathway.”
The quality of replacement for all of those players really does serve to show just how deep the talent pool of English rugby is though, for the side named to face South Africa is packed with talent.
Bath’s Zach Mercer, a candidate for U20 World Player of the Year, again skippers the side from number 8, with Saracens’ Ben Earl at openside, and Harlequins’ Dino Lamb-Cona at blindside.
Josh Caulfield of Exeter Chiefs starts in the second row, with Justin Clegg, the former NatWest Cup winner with Bromsgrove, coming in to join him in place of Jack Nay.
Marcus Street, the man still qualified for England U18, is the only man in the front row that also played in Thursday’s 20-19 win over Australia, with Saracens’ Ralph Adams-Hale coming in at loosehead and Gloucester’s Joe Mullis starting at hooker.
Alex Mitchell of Northampton Saints comes in for Harry Randall at scrum half, but outside of him the midfield trio remains the same, with Saracens’ Max Malins at fly half, London Irish’s Theo Brophy-Clews operating as a second five eigth, and Worcester Warriors’ Will Butler at outside centre.
Brophy-Clews clubmate, Tom Parton, starts once more at full back, with Gabriel Ibitoye, who has five tries in the tournament including a stunning finish against Australia on Thursday, again on the left wing. Darren Atkins, a late injury replacement in the squad, gets his first start of the tournament, he will be operating from the right wing.
Speaking to www.englandrugby.com ahead of the game, Tom Williams was keen to point to the character of this side, saying:
“I want to see the guys go out there, enjoy themselves and to play with a lot of energy, this group has got huge character, they have shown it against Ireland to win the Grand Slam and they showed it against Australia to get us into this semi-final.”
“South Africa are an interesting team because they provide two separate type of challenges, they have a big forward pack and some quick and exciting backs.”
England appear to have kicked a side specifically to combat some of South Africa’s threats, with Williams pointing to his wing selections in particular:
“I’m thrilled for Gabs (Ibitoye), he’s fulfilling some of the promise he showed throughout his academy time at Quins. It’s a great opportunity for Darren, I feel for Paolo Odogwu who did a great job against Australia and produced a near faultless performance, however, Darren has a little bit more experience in the back three and that will help with South Africa’s kicking threat.”
England U20 v South Africa U20 – Tuesday 13th June, 3pm kick off – Live on ITV 4
England U20 XV:
15 Tom Parton (London Irish)
14 Darren Atkins (Bath Rugby)
13 Will Butler (Worcester Warriors)
12 Theo Brophy Clews (London Irish)
11 Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
10 Max Malins (Saracens)
9 Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
1 Ralph Adams-Hale (Saracens)
2 Joe Mullis (Gloucester Rugby)
3 Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
4 Josh Caulfield (Exeter Chiefs)
5 Justin Clegg (Worcester Warriors)
6 Dino Lamb (Harlequins)
7 Ben Earl (Saracens)
8 Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby, captain)
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker (Gloucester Rugby), 17 Ollie Dawe (Bristol Rugby), 18 Ciaran Knight (Gloucester Rugby), 19 Max Davies (Newcastle Falcons), 20 Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby), 21 Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby), 22 Jacob Umaga (Wasps), 23 Paolo Odogwu (Sale Sharks).
2017 World Rugby U20 Championship Fixtures & Results (all times BST):
Semi Finals – Tuesday 13th June (1st-4th, 5th-8th, and 9th-12th)
Ireland (10th) v Samoa (11th) – 10am kick off
Argentina (9th) v Georgia (12th) – 12.30pm kick off
Australia (5th) v Italy (8th) – 12.30pm kick off
Scotland (6th) v Wales (7th) – 3pm kick off
England (2nd) v South Africa (3rd) – 3pm kick off
New Zealand (1st) v France (4th) – 5.30pm kick off
Finals – Sunday 18th June
|Round 1 – Wednesday 31st May|
|Pool A||Pool B||Pool C|
|Australia 24-17 Wales||Ireland 21-22 Italy||Argentina 37-26 Georgia|
|England 74-17 Samoa||New Zealand 42-20 Scotland||South Africa 23-23 France|
|Round 2 – Sunday 4th June|
|Pool A||Pool B||Pool C|
|Australia 33-26 Samoa||Ireland 28-32 Scotland||Argentina 25-26 France|
|England 34-22 Wales||New Zealand 68-26 Italy||South Africa 38-14 Georgia|
|Round 3 – Thursday 8th June|
|Pool A||Pool B||Pool C|
|England 20-19 Australia||Ireland 3-69 New Zealand||Argentina 14-72 South Africa|
|Wales 54-20 Samoa||Scotland 17-16 Italy||France 54-0 Georgia|
2017 World Rugby U20 Championship Final Group Standings: