Former Northampton Saints coach Alan Dickens has named his first England U20 squad since taking up the role in November. The 32-man squad will convene at Bisham Abbey national sports next Sunday as they begin their preparations for both the upcoming Under-20s Six Nations and the World Rugby Under-20s Championship in the summer.
The group’s first fixture comes against France in Grenoble on February 1 before making a trip to Myreside to take on Scotland a week later. Home games against Ireland (Franklin’s Gardens) and Wales (Kingsholm) are then scheduled before a final trip to Verona to take on Italy.
A total of eight players return from the group that competed at the under-20s level last year, with Alfie Barbeary, Richard Capstick, Rusiate Tuima, Sam Maunder, Manu Vunipola, Ollie Sleightholme, Connor Doherty and Josh Hodge all hoping to improve on what was a challenging campaign in 2019.
They have been joined by a number of second-year players who were not involved last year, such as Sam Crean, Ben Donnell, Rob Farrar, Hugh Tizard and JJ Tonks. The other 19 players in the squad are made up of players in their first years of professional rugby.
Among the more notable omissions in the group are London Irish’s Izaiha Moore-Aiono and Chunya Munga, and Harlequins’ Louis Lynagh and Sam Riley. The battle for the ten jersey will be typically exciting, as Vunipola competes with Tom Curtis, George Barton and Will Haydon-Wood to be England’s arch playmaker.
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Commenting on the squad, Dickens said: “Players have been selected through a combination of their performances last year and displays in domestic and European competitions this season. It’s been encouraging to see a number of the group playing Premiership, Champions Cup and Challenge Cup rugby and I believe we’ve selected a really strong 32 for our elite player squad.
“We also have a wider squad that we know will contribute and be crucial during the Six Nations as well as the World Rugby U20 Championship and my message to those players not in the 32 would be to stay fit and engaged with everything we are doing.
“I want to see the players arrive in camp on Sunday with a desire to learn, improve and take in a high level of detail. We have less than a month to bond as a squad before our first Six Nations fixture so getting them to gel will be a key challenge for the players as well as the management team. I also want players to enjoy themselves.
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“Being selected for England at any level is a proud moment in their careers and they should remember that. Hopefully, this is the next step in their ultimate dream of playing for the senior side.
“Some of this group will have experienced the Six Nations last year and know how special a competition it is, with fixtures against some of England’s great rivals. Crucially though, it prepares them for what they will experience as and when they make the next step into the senior side so it is a critical phase in their development as an England player.
“These players need to be aware that the next step is not too far away and relish this opportunity. We have had our first camp in November which was a really positive experience. It was made even more positive for the players when Eddie Jones was able to come in and deliver a session and that had a really powerful impact on them. This is a stepping stone to senior international rugby and we continue our preparations in a few days’ time.”
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England U20 EPS:
Alfie Barbeary (Wasps Rugby)
Harvey Beaton (Saracens)
Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs)
Jack Clement (Gloucester Rugby)
Sam Crean (Saracens)
Theodore Dan (Saracens)
Ben Donnell (London Irish)
Rob Farrar (Newcastle Falcons)
Josh Gray (Gloucester Rugby)
Luke Green (London Irish)
George Martin (Leicester Tigers)
Nahum Merigan (Bath Rugby)
Hugh Tizard (Harlequins)
JJ Tonks (Northampton Saints)
Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
James Whitcombe (Leicester Tigers)
George Barton (Gloucester Rugby)
Joe Carpenter (Sale Sharks)
Tom Curtis (Sale Sharks)
Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks)
Gabriel Hamer-Webb (Bath Rugby)
Will Haydon-Wood (Newcastle Falcons)
Noah Heward (Worcester Warriors)
Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)
Max Ojomoh (Bath Rugby)
Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)
Raphael Quirke (Sale Sharks)
Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks)
Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
Jack Van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers)
Manu Vunipola (Saracens)
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