England U18 have amended their squad for the upcoming tour of South Africa, making four changes to the original 25-man squad.
The headline change is that Brighton College fly half Marcus Smith, who will be with Harlequins for the upcoming season, will miss the tour having yesterday been called up to the senior England training squad.
Smith starred for school, club, and country (both at U18 and U20 level) last year, and put in a memorable display across the two days at the St Joseph’s Festival last October. The young fly half unofficially trained with the senior England squad a few times last year when they were training at Brighton College, as photos from the training camps showed, but this is his first official involvement.
It is likely that it is just a development tool for Smith as Eddie Jones continues to bring fresh and young faces into his squad for experience, but were he to be capped he would be the youngest Tier 1 cap since Australia’s James O’Connor.
Smith will be looking to pick the brains not just of the other fly halves in the squad, George Ford, Alex Lozowski, Piers Francis, and two time British and Irish Lion Owen Farrell, but also of the likes of Tom Curry, Nick Isiekwe, and Jack Maunder, who are all retained in the squad following their summer exploits for England, and were all teammates of Smith in the England U20 squad for the 2017 U20 6 Nations.
It continues Eddie Jones’ theme of the last few months of really backing youth, with Sam Underhill, Ellis Genge, Charlie Ewels, Nathan Earle, Harry Mallinder, and Joe Marchant all also named in the squad.
In the U18 squad Warwick and Worcester Warriors’ Nick David replaces Smith in the group of backs, linking up with his Warwick captain, Nick Rigby.
In the forward pack Millfield James Dun and Beechen Cliff’s Kieran Verdan will both now not travel, nor will Worcester Warriors’ Ted Hill, who like Smith could soon find himself playing at a higher level having also played for the U20s while still eligible for the U18s back in the 6 Nations.
Replacing them are The Perse’s Alex Coles, Dr Challoners’ Joe Tunney, and Bristol Grammar School’s Tom Rowland, who joins his fellow Bristol Grammar School and Bristol Rugby mate, Will Capon.
The group will play three fixtures, against France U18 at the Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch next Friday at 1.15pm (BST), followed by Wales U18 at Paarl Gymnasium on Tuesday 15th, again at 1.15pm kick off, with the final fixture taking place on Saturday 19th August against South Africa School at City Park, Athlone, this one kicking off a little earlier, at 1pm.
Head Coach John Fletcher leads the coaching group, with Peter Walton, Russell Earnshaw, and Mark Luffman supporting as they aim to keep England’s run going, which saw them win April’s U18 International Series.
Speaking about the amended squad, Fletcher said:
“It’s disappointing for those guys that are not coming who are injured, however, they will be back towards the early part of the season so that’s positive for them.”
“For those players that have been called into the squad it’s also an exciting time for them and a great opportunity. They all narrowly missed out on selection and now they get their chance.”
“I’ve been to South Africa a number of times, it’s a great environment to take the players to as Wales and France are strong opposition from a northern hemisphere point of view while South Africa is a significant test at 18s because they are such a physical team.”
For this group it is a chance to develop, but also to put themselves into the shop window to join the likes of Smith, Curry, Isiekwe, and Maunder in the senior set up in the future, and with Eddie Jones looking to back youth, who would bet against a few of these names making that leap in the near future.
England U18 Touring Squad:
Josh Basham (London Irish, Wellington College)
Will Capon (Bristol Rugby, Bristol Grammar School)
Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs, Exeter College)
Alex Coles (Northampton Saints, The Perse School)
Beck Cutting (Worcester Warriors, Bromsgrove School)
George Head (Harlequins, Tonbridge School)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, Wyggeston & QEI College)
Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester Rugby, St Peter’s High School)
Sam Moore (Sale Sharks, Sedbergh School)
Nick Rigby (Worcester Warriors, Warwick School)
Tom Rowland (Bristol Rugby, Bristol Grammar School)
James Scott (Worcester Warriors, Malvern College)
Joe Tunney (Wasps, Dr Challoners GS)
Tom Willis (Wasps, The Henley College)
Nick David (Worcester Warriors, Warwick School)
Tom de Glanville (Bath Rugby, Beechen Cliff School)
Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, Bedford School)
Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie , New College Pontefract)
Ollie Hassell-Collins (London Irish, St Paul’s School)
Cadan Murley (Harlequins, Bishop Wordsworth’s School)
Will Porter (Wasps, Merchant Taylors’ School)
Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks, Sedbergh School)
Arron Reed (Sale Sharks, Kirkham Grammar School)
Tom Seabrook (Gloucester Rugby, Dean Close School)
Sam Spink (Wasps, Wellington College)
Kieran Wilkinson (Sale Sharks, Kirkham Grammar School)
Friday 11 August: England U18 v France – Paul Roos Gymnasium, Stellenbosch (1.15pm BST)
Tuesday 15 August: England U18 v Wales – Paarl Gymnasium, Paarl (1.15pm BST)
Saturday 19 August: England U18 v SA Schools – City Park, Athlone (1pm BST)
Senior England training squad for Lensbury camp:
Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks)
Tom Dunn (Bath Rugby)
Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby)
Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers)
Jamie George (Saracens)
Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Nathan Hughes (Wasps)
Nick Isiekwe (Saracens)
Maro Itoje (Saracens)
Joe Launchbury (Wasps)
Chris Robshaw (Harlequins)
Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins)
Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby)
Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs)
Mark Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Danny Care (Harlequins)
Nathan Earle (Saracens)
Owen Farrell (Saracens)
George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
Piers Francis (Northampton Saints)
Alex Lozowski (Saracens)
Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marchant (Harlequins)
Jack Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)
Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks)
Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
(British and Irish Lions with the squad will not train, Vunipola, Marler, Kruis, Lawes, Haskell, Te’o, Joseph, and Daly remain on holiday.)