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England U20s side named for last JWC pool game

England U20s have named their side for the final pool game of the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship against Australia in Georgia.

The reigning world champions have recorded two bonus-point victories over Samoa and Wales and another will send them on their way to the semi-finals.

Bath star Zach Mercer captains the side from No.8 while there is a first start for Sale flying wing Paolo Odogwu.

“It’s been a short turnaround but training has been good and we’ve worked hard off the field more importantly,” said England U20 head coach Ian Vass. “We’re confident in what we’re trying to achieve and that’s to get into a World Rugby U20 Championship semi-final.

“The competition is getting better with every game so we need to improve also and that’s what we’ve tried to achieve in training. If we perform as we can, the result will take care of itself.”

Two members of last year’s winning side, Harry Randall and Max Malins, start at scrum-half and fly-half.

Gabriel Ibitoye, who has four tries from two games in the tournament, again plays on the wing while Theo Brophy Clews also starts at centre.

Bath’s Darren Atkins is among the replacements and he could make his first appearance of the Championship, while Odogwu starts on the wing having been called up as an injury replacement for Ali Crossdale.

“It’s a really big opportunity for Paolo, he has played to a high level all year,” said Vass.

“He’s played in the Premiership so is highly capable and an exciting player. We want to try and get him on the ball because he is a good finisher and a dangerous attacking player.”

Australia are also unbeaten in the tournament and the two sides met each other in last year’s tournament at the same stage.

“Our aim is to win the game and if we do that we’re in the semi-final, but our primary concern is on performing well and beating Australia,” added Vass.

“They are tactically astute so we need to be on our toes as a team and react as well as adapt to whatever they are doing. They have had two tough games and have shown a mental edge to come through them.”

Wing Sam Aspland-Robinson has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury and Vass paid tribute to the Harlequins back.

“It’s hugely disappointing for Sam who has made a great contribution both in this tournament and for the U20s,” said Vass. “We’re also disappointed to be losing a player of his quality.”

England U20s: Tom Parton (London Irish), Paolo Odogwu (Sale), Will Butler (Worcester), Theo Brophy Clews (London Irish), Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins), Max Malins (Saracens), Harry Randall (Gloucester), Ollie Dawe (Bristol), Henry Walker (Gloucester), Marcus Street (Exeter), Josh Caulfield (Exeter), Jack Nay (Saracens), Dino Lamb (Harlequins), Ben Earl (Saracens), Zach Mercer (Bath, captain)

Replacements: Joe Mullis (Gloucester), Ralph Adams-Hale (Saracens), Ciaran Knight (Gloucester), Justin Clegg (Worcester), Max Davies (Newcastle), Josh Bayliss (Bath), Alex Mitchell (Northampton), Darren Atkins (Bath)

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