The Rugby Football Union (RFU) have taken the next step in recruiting the pathway staff for the 2019/20 season, hiring former Northampton Saints defence and attack coach Alan Dickens to be the England U20s head coach.
He replaces Steve Bates who the RFU parted ways with at the end of last season and joins former Wasps academy manager Jonathan Pendlebury in the set-up, who was hired as the England U18s head coach earlier this month. Pendlebury was brought in as a replacement for Jim Mallinder, who left for the role of performance director at the Scottish Rugby Union.
In addition to his time at Saints, Dickens was also a coach on the England Saxons tour of South Africa in 2016, in which the Saxons beat South Africa A in both games. He also spent time at Northampton as academy manager and has experience as a development coach.
Commenting on the hire, the RFU’s Head of Professional Rugby, Nigel Melville, stated: “The U20s along with our U18s men squads are very important teams for the future of the senior national team and we are seeing significant transition through the pathway.
“Alan Dickens has worked in the Saxons set up before in 2016 and has also worked in the academy space so is experienced in the development of young players, and also has good Premiership experience so we feel he is a great choice for this role.
“He knows what it takes to develop future England internationals so is ideally placed to not only bring players through from U18s to U20s, but from 20s to the senior set up. His job will be to transition those players, but also work with our U18s head coach Jonathan Pendlebury to shape the next generation of England player coming through.”
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Dickens is keen to back up the success that Northampton have had transitioning talented youngsters into their first team of late, as well as replicating the success the U20 side have had in recent tournaments and in transitioning players to the senior England team.
“I’m thrilled to take on this important role with the RFU. The most exciting thing for me is seeing young players progress within their clubs, and ultimately then into the England first team squad.
“I’ve felt real pride in recent years seeing young Northampton players make the step up to international level, make their debuts and go on to play in Six Nations Championships and World Cups.
“The player pathway while I’ve been coaching has been really strong, with England reaching the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship nine times over the last 12 years and winning the tournament on three occasions, so of course I’m keen to continue that run of success.
“The numbers of players then getting capped from those teams is also phenomenal, so I’m really looking forward to helping these young guys progress through the pathway.
“I’m already looking forward to coming back to Franklin’s Gardens in February with England when we take on Ireland in the Six Nations Championship; it’s a proper rugby stadium with supporters who love the game, so that will be a special moment for me.”
With both Dickens and Pendlebury brought in, England have filled the voids created by the departures of Mallinder and Bates, though Dean Ryan’s role as Head of International Player Development is still unfilled.
RugbyPass understands that Conor O’Shea is the likely man to take on those responsibilities and complete the pathway triumvirate, with the former Harlequins Director of Rugby having recently parted ways with Italy.
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