Aviva A League: Youth given a huge chance in A League season openers


The Aviva A League kicks off in full this evening after an early opener on Friday between Bath United and Saracens Storm.


The Saracens second string, much like their first string against Northampton Saints at Twickenham, but on a real show, beating Bath 65-13 to begin their campaign with a bang.


With the side being led by England U20 back rower Ben Earl, with his U20 colleagues Max Malins, Jack Nay, and Dom Morris for company, alongside school leavers Reuben Bird-Tulloch and Sean Reffell, it was a performance that suggested that there is plenty to be excited about in terms of Saracens’ future.


With that game having taken place on Friday, it means that there are five other games this evening, three in the Northern Conference and a remaining two in the Southern Conference.


London Irish return to the A League after a year out and take on Gloucester United in the south. The Irish side contains a horde of Wellington College leaver of the last couple of years, with 2016 leavers Tom Parton, Matt Williams, Isaac Curtis-Harris, and Rory Brand all starting, while 2017 leaver Josh Basham gets a start in the second row following his England U18 duty in South Africa, RGS High Wycombe’s Ben Harris, meanwhile, is on the bench.


Gloucester United meanwhile give starts to England U18 front rowers Alex Seville, Henry Walker, and Ciaran Knight, with England U18 openside Aaron Hinkley also starting in what looks an exciting game.


The final game in the South sees Harlequins host and Exeter Braves, and like everyone else, Quins have plenty of youth in their side, including England U18 wing/centre Cadan Murley, John Okafor and Star South in the second row, Deno Lamb-Cona and Archie White in the back row, and new signing Lewis Boyce at loosehead, who was part of the Boyce-Walker-Hill front row that served England U18, England U20, and Yorkshire Carnegie so well.


Exeter Braves meanwhile hand a start to Joe Simmonds at 10, with former Dulwich College star Tom O’Flaherty on the right wing and ex Prior Park centre Pete Laverick on the left.


Over in the Northern Conference Sale Jets take on Northampton Wanderers. Kirkham Grammar leaver Arron Reed starts on the right wing after starring for England U18 while former schoolmate Kieran Wilkinson is at 10, with his brother Connor on the bench. Former England U20 star George Nott is in the second row.


Saints meanwhile have gone for experience, with George North, Rob Horne, and Cobus Reinach all in the starting side. Former Scotland U20 centre Rory Hutchinson gets a game at 10, with former Sedbergh lock Alex Moon also in a starting shirt. Bedford School leaver Fraser Strachan is on the bench.


Wasps Coventry base now of course means they are in the Northern Conference. They select Scotland U20 fly half Connor Eastgate, along with former Harrow star Owain James on the left wing and U18 Academy member Taju Atta on the right wing. Former Millfield hooker Gabriel Oghre is at 6, with ex Henley College man Tom Willis at 8 and England U20 prop Will Stuart at tighthead. Merchant Taylors’ leaver Will Porter will cover scrum half from the bench.


Wasps’ opponents are Newcastle Falcons, who have two schoolboys on the bench in Durham’s Cameron Kelemeti and Gosforth Academy’s Morgan Passman, former Sedbergh man Max Davies is also on the bench.


It’s a young half back pairing of Ruaridh Dawson and Craig Willis, with Brett Connon at full back. Former Ipswich School and Northampton Saints U18 prop, Simon Uzokwe, starts at openside flanker.


The final game in the North sees Worcester Cavaliers host Leicester Tigers A. Worcester name an exceptionally young side. In the backline Bromsgrove’s Ollie Lawrence starts at outside centre, with Warwick leaver Nick David at full back. David’s Warwick captain last year, Nick Rigby, starts at tighthead, with former Bromsgrove star Justin Clegg in the second row.


The back row is perhaps most exciting of all, with Scotland U20 number 8 Tom Dodd, Worcester 6th form College leaver, and a player who played for both England U18 and U20 last year, Ted Hill, at blindside, and former Old Swinford Hospital stalwart, Huw Taylor, captaining the side from the openside. King’s Worcester’s Owein Harriott-Davis is also is the squad, covering the back row.


Leicester Tigers start Rugby School leaver and England U18 fly half Tom Hardwick, with plenty of youth around him, including Harry Simmons, Charlie Thacker, George Catchpole, and Jordan Olowofela. The side is captained by former Lion Tom Croft, with the exciting Will Evans at openside.


A League Fixtures and Results:



Bath United 13-65 Saracens Storm (Southern Conference)



Harlequins A v Exeter Braves (Southern Conference)

London Irish A v Gloucester United (Southern Conference)

Sale Jets v Northampton Wanderers (Northern Conference)

Wasps A v Newcastle Falcons A (Northern Conference)

Worcester Cavaliers v Leicester Tigers A (Northern Conference)


Team News:


Bath United XV:

15 Darren Atkins, 14 Levi Davis, 13 Duncan Craig, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Harry Davies, 10 Josh Lewis, 9 Will Flinn, 1 Will Vaughan, 2 Michael van Vuuren, 3 Sam Nixon, 4 Will Britton, 5 Scott Russell, 6 Jack Davis, 7 Josh Bayliss, 8 Zach Mercer.

Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Arthur Cordwell, 18 Bradley Packham, 19 Chris Barry, 20 Ollie Fox, 21 Robbie de Bruyn, 22 Wil Partington.


Saracens Storm XV:

15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Tom Griffiths, 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Max Malins (vc), 9 Henry Taylor, 1 Ralph Adams-Hale, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 4 Mark Flanagan, 5 Joel Kpoku, 6 Jack Nay, 7 Joel Conlon, 8 Ben Earl (c).

Replacements: 16 Tadgh McElroy, 17 Sakaosi Pifeoeti, 18 Billy Walker, 19 Danny Cutmore, 20 Sean Reffell, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Rueben Bird-Tulloch, 23 Dom Morris.


Harlequins A XV:

15 Tim Swiel, 14 Cadan Murley, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Tim Visser, 10 James Lang, 9 Dave Lewis (c), 1 Lewis Boyce, 2 Elia Elia, 3 Phil Swainston, 4 John Okafor, 5 Stan South, 6 Dino Lamb-Cona, 7 Archie White, 8 Renaldo Bothma.

Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Cameron Holenstein, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Llewelyn Jones (Guest), 20 Willie Ryan (Guest), 21 Calum Waters, 22 Jake Hennessey, 23 Niall Saunders.


Exeter Braves XV:

15 Sal M’Boge, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Tom Hendrickson, 12 Harvey Skinner, 11 Pete Laverick, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Will Chudley, 1 Moray Low, 2 Shaun Malton, 3 Greg Holmes, 4 Toby Salmon, 5 Mitch Lees, 6 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 7 Julian Salvi (c), 8 James Freeman.

Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Billy Keast, 18 Jack Owlett, 19 Sean Lonsdale, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Sam Morley, 23 Harrison Cully.


London Irish A XV:

15 Tom Parton, 14 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Matt Williams, 11 Ben Ransom, 10 Jacob Atkins, 9 Rory Brand, 1 Harry Elrington, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 4 Josh Basham, 5 Will Lloyd, 6 Jake Schatz, 7 Isaac Curtis-Harris, 8 Lasha Lomidze.

Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Elliot Roofe, 18 Austin Hay, 19 Dom McGeekie, 20 Max Northcote-Green, 21 George Pickersgill, 22 Ben Harris, 23 Louis Flynn.


Gloucester United XV:

15 Reece Dunn, 14 Charlie Chapman, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Tom Hudson, 11 Mason Tonks, 10 Carwyn Penny, 9 Callum Braley, 1 Alex Seville, 2 Henry Walker, 3 Ciaran Knight, 4 Charlie Beckett (c), 5 Tom Denton, 6 Will Safe, 7 Aaron Hinkley, 8 Gareth Evans

Replacements: 16 Cameron Orr, 17 Will Crane, 18 Jack Bartlett, 19 Harry Butler, 20 Harry Wilson, 21 Ed Coulson, 22 Aquillen Smith, 23 Alex Ducker.


Sale Jets XV:

15 Tom Carleton, 14 Arron Reed, 13 Luke James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 Kieran Wilkinson, 9 Tom Walsh, 1 Jake Pope, 2 Curtis Langdon, 3 Will-Griff John, 4 Matt Postlethwaite, 5 George Nott, 6 Nic Dolly, 7 David Seymour, 8 Laurence Pearce.

Replacements: 16 Ianto Jones, 17 John Blanchard, 18 Laurence Sanderson, 19 Joseph Murphy, 20 Alex Dolly, 21 Sam Stelmaszek, 22 Connor Wilkinson, 23 Charlie Venebales.


Northampton Wanderers XV:

15 George Furbank, 14 Juan Pablo Estelles, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 George North, 10 Rory Hutchinson, 9 Cobus Reinach, 1 Francois van Wyk, 2 Charlie Clare, 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 4 Michael Paterson, 5 Alex Moon, 6 Paddy Ryan, 7 Ben Nutley, 8 Sam Dickinson (c).

Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Matt Beesley, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Devante Onojaife, 21 Tom Kessell, 22 Fraser Strachan, 23 Jamie Elliott.


Wasps A XV:

15 Rob Miller, 14 Taju Atta (Wasps Academy U18), 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Guy Armitage, 11 Owain James, 10 Connor Eastgate, 9 Craig Hampson (c), 1 Ben Harris, 2 Antonio Harris, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Cameron Gray (Coventry RFC), 5 Guy Borrowdale (Rotherham Titans), 6 Gabriel Oghre, 7 James Seabrook, 8 Tom Willis.

Replacements: 16 Will Owen, 17 George Thornton, 18 David Langley, 19 James Moreton (Broadstreet RFC), 20 George Cox (Nottingham RFC), 21 Will Porter, 22 Josh Grimes (Nottingham RFC), 23 Jo Davetanilavu (Army).


Newcastle Falcons A XV:

15 Brett Connon, 14 Cameron Cowell, 13 Ben Stevenson, 12 Charlie Wilson, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Ruaridh Dawson, 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Santiago Socino, 3 Jake Ilnicki, 4 Glen Young, 5 Evan Olmstead, 6 Harrison Orr, 7 Simon Uzokwe, 8 Ryan Burrows (c).

Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Jack Bergmanas, 18 Diogo Ferreira, 19 Nick Civetta, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Cameron Kelemeti (Durham School), 22 Morgan Passman (Gosforth Academy), 23 Max Davies.


Worcester Cavaliers XV:

15 Nick David, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Ollie Lawrence (Bromsgrove School/Warriors U18), 12 Ollie Allsopp (Birmingham Moseley), 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Sam Hollingsworth (Birmingham Moseley), 9 Sam Pointon (Birmingham Moseley), 1 Gareth Milasinovich, 2 Matti Williams, 3 Nick Rigby, 4 Justin Clegg, 5 Christian Scotland-Williamson, 6 Ted Hill, 7 Huw Taylor (c), 8 Tom Dodd.

Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Kai Owen (Luctonians), 18 Jay Tyack (Birmingham Moseley), 19 Aaron Crofts (Birmingham Moseley), 20 Owien Harriott-Davis (King’s Worcester/Warriors U18), 21 Josh Nott (Nottingham Trent University), 22 Josh Jarvis (Birmingham Moseley), 23 Afeafe Haisila Lokotui.


Leicester Tigers A XV:

15 Jordan Olowofela, 14 George Catchpole, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Charlie Thacker, 11 Jonah Holmes, 10 Tom Hardwick, 9 Harry Simmons, 1 Kyle Traynor, 2 Harry Mahoney, 3 Ben Betts, 4 Sam Lewis, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 6 Tom Croft (c), 7 Will Evans, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi.

Replacements: 16 Callum Lynch, 17 Owen Hills, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Toby Hutchinson, 20 Fred Tuilagi, 21 Jonno Kitto, 22 Matt Travers, 23 Jon Hughes.

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