England made it back-to-back victories at the World Rugby Under-20s Championship in 2014, defeating South Africa 21-20 in the final in New Zealand.
Members of both teams lined up against each other in the World Cup final five years later in Japan. Thomas du Toit, Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant all make the squad for the 2019 showcase, with Handre Pollard playing an instrumental part in the Springboks’ victory over the English in Yokohama.
Here’s what happened to the victorious England age-grade team of 2014:
15. Aaron Morris
England’s full-back was a Saracens player at the time, but he made the move to Harlequins in 2016. His game time in south-west London has steadily increased and he has seen a lot of action this season due to a spate of injuries at the club, particularly Mike Brown’s long-term knee problem.
14. Howard Packman
13. Nick Tompkins
A popular figure at Saracens for a number of seasons now, with a keen eye for the try line, he was picked up by Wayne Pivac’s Wales this year and went on to have an impressive Six Nations at outside centre. Despite featuring for England Saxons in 2016, he was never called upon by Eddie Jones, and Wales look to be the beneficiaries.
12. Harry Sloan
A member of the victorious Un20s squad the year before, he started at outside centre in the 2013 final against Wales. Since then, the ex-Harlequins centre had stints with Ealing and London Scottish in the Championship before making a permanent switch to Trailfinders in 2018.
11. Nathan Earle
The Harlequins winger made the move across London from Saracens in 2018 in the hope of more regular game time. This proved to be a wise choice, as he established himself in Paul Gustard’s side in a promising first season in which he was one of the Premiership’s most deadly finishers. Having toured with England in Argentina in 2017, a Test call-up may have been on the cards last season, but a devastating anterior cruciate ligament injury in April was a major setback.
10. Billy Burns
After coming through the Gloucester ranks and establishing himself as the starting fly-half at Kingsholm, he joined Ulster in 2018 knowing he was eligible to play for Ireland. He was called up to Andy Farrell’s Six Nations squad this year and although he has not yet been capped, it looks likely to happen in the future.
9. Henry Taylor
Having made the switch from Saracens to Northampton last summer, his profile has been raised this season. An injury to Alex Mitchell, along with Cobus Reinach’s World Cup duty with South Africa, meant the scrum-half thrived with more exposure under the tutelage of Chris Boyd.
8. James Chisholm
A fixture at Harlequins, the dynamic back row now plays mostly at blindside flanker due to the emergence of Alex Dombrandt at the club. Following the 2014 success, he went on to be named the World Rugby U20s Championship player of the year in 2015 as well as Harlequins’ players’ player of the year in 2017.
7. Gus Jones
The ex-Wasps flanker has played for London Welsh and Oxford University since the 2014 triumph.
6. Ross Moriarty
Another who was part of the victorious 2013 starting XV, he is no longer representing England having made his Test debut for Wales in 2015 under Warren Gatland. The bruising enforcer is now a mainstay in the Welsh squad, covering both blindside flanker and No8 and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2017.
5. Charlie Ewels
The Bath lock made his England debut two-and-a-half years after the U20s victory, playing in the 2016 November internationals under Jones. In probably England’s strongest position, he has been in and out of the squad sporadically since then, earning 15 caps (six starting), but he re-emerged in this year’s Six Nations.
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4. Maro Itoje
England’s age-grade captain in 2014 and a player that needs no introduction as he has gone on to become a world rugby superstar. Since making his Test debut in 2016, the lock has simply been undroppable, even playing in all three Lions Tests against the All Blacks in 2017. An England captain in waiting and the only player from the 2014 squad to play against the Springboks in the 2019 RWC final.
3. Paul Hill
Northampton’s tighthead made his England Test debut in the 2016 Six Nations and featured in the victorious whitewash of Australia later that year. However, he is yet to win another cap, his Test career getting curtailed by various injuries.
2. Tom Woolstencroft
1. Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi
A sub in 2013’s success, the ex-Northampton loosehead made the starting XV a year later. He moved to London Irish in 2016 and now frequently features in the Premiership.
The replacements contained some regular faces in the Premiership today, but Callum Braley is the only player to have been capped internationally so far and has earned eight caps for Italy. Ex-Exeter and Saracens flanker Joel Conlon was forced to retire in 2018 at the age of 24 because of a neck injury.
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