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The Finn Carnduff verdict on England U20s making 12 changes

By Liam Heagney
England U20s skipper Finn Carnduff (Photo by Thinus Maritz/World Rugby)

England age-grade coach Mark Mapletoft certainly isn’t afraid of rolling the dice at the World Rugby U20 Championship. No other team measures up to his chutzpah in changing a dozen of his starting XV for Thursday’s clash with Fiji in Athlone.


Wales came close, making 10 alterations for their meeting with Spain at the same venue, but for most of the other teams it was business as usual selection-wise at the tournament. What the wholesale shake-up said about England is that they trust their strength in depth, but also that skipper Finn Carnduff is too invaluable to lose as a leader.

The blindside talisman from Leicester Tigers is one of the three repeats picks from last Saturday’s match day one win over Argentina and his leadership was something Mapletoft wasn’t prepared to sacrifice.

“I feel good. Came out of the first game feeling fresh, wanted to play again,” explained Carnduff to RugbyPass. “And look, I want to play rugby, I enjoy playing rugby so any opportunity I have to, it is good to go and do it.”

What especially influenced Mapletoft’s thinking is the five-day turnaround between games. Having opened with a draw versus Ireland last year in Paarl, the coach also made multiple changes for the subsequent round two match against Fiji in Stellenbosch.

World Rugby U20 Championship
England U20
48 - 11
Fiji U20
All Stats and Data

A comfortable win was attained that Thursday evening 12 months ago, England taking the spoils on a 53-7 scoreline, and they will be hoping to pull through as comfortably again even though the Fijians are expected to be better than what they showed in their 7-57 loss to South Africa last Saturday, a game where preparations were hampered by a dozen of their squad only receiving their visas to fly out four days before the match.

“A tough first game for them having had the travel that they had against a very good South African team and we knew that, so we can expect a much better Fiji team this week,” reckoned Carnduff.


“We fully respect them, we played them this time last year and we saw the upset they nearly had against Australia, so we are very much prepared for an outstanding Fiji performance and be ready for it.”

About the England’s multiple alterations, Carnduff suggested: “The competition is a tough one. Five games in such a short period of time, squad rotation is key. Some of the boys have got their chance this week, so I am excited to see them. Some of the boys have got their debuts against Fiji on Thursday.”

Who of the new crew should England fans watch out for? “Ollie Allan at nine, got his debut against last week. He is a really cool, calm had having not got much opportunity in the Six Nations due to injury. It’s great to have him in the team. Arthur Green from Bath, starting at eight on Thursday is another big ball carrier and again an older lad in the team who will put his best foot forward on his debut.

“We have got to start the game how we finished it,” continued the skipper, referencing how England had to turn around a 14-point deficient to beat Argentina 40-21. “Argentina really rested us in that first 20-minute period. We probably weren’t firing on all cylinders and they took advantage of that. Starting the game as we finished it is the main take away.”


Six teams, including England, picked up all five points of offer on match day one, while Wales, who grabbed two bonus points in their loss to New Zealand, were the seventh and only team to put some points on the table.

What did Carnduff make of the across-the-board action? “Just every team is full of quality. Maybe some teams that we thought wouldn’t be as strong proved to be stronger than anticipated and it showed there were a lot of close games throughout all the games in the first round. It’s exciting for the tournament really.”

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1 Comment
finn 10 days ago

I really hope Pollock is dropped, not just rotated.

He’s probably the best player in the world his age but he plays like a guy who is determined to waste his talent.

His linespeed is distinctly average, his kick chase is too, and his tracking back on opposition kicks is slower than even a prop would consider acceptable. For an openside flanker that is completely out of line. The lad seriously needs a wakeup call.

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Tom 1 hours ago
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