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By Neale Harvey
England U20s coach Anthony Allen says today’s budding Red Rose stars are far better prepared for the pressure of top Test rugby than he was 12 years ago.
Allen, 31, who is in the foothills of his coaching career and revealed he is to be mentored this year by former England cricket coach Peter Moores, was thrown into the deep end against New Zealand and Argentina in 2006, aged 20, and never played another Test.
Injuries also hampered his international chances, but Allen believes the coaching systems now in place make it far less likely that teenagers like Marcus Smith, Nick Isiekwe and the Curry twins, Tom and Ben, will fall by the Test wayside as he sadly once did.
After seeing U20s stars Gabriel Ibitoye and Sam Moore called into England’s senior squad last week, Allen told The Rugby Paper: “People will be encouraged to see Gabriel and Sam being called-up and it again shows that Eddie Jones will give people chances.
“Looking back at 2006, the game has moved on now and with the quality of coaching and the advice players receive, these young players are in a better spot and have much more exposure and understanding at the highest level than I had 12 years ago.
“I wasn’t ready for Test rugby, I was just a kid enjoying playing the game and I still had a lot of growing up to do at Gloucester, but the current players are so much more mature and ready for when they get their first caps on the international stage.”
Former centre Allen is assisting England U20s in this year’s Six Nations and World Cup campaigns while continuing his work with Leicester’s academy.
His coaching journey is to be mentored by Moores, who now runs Nottinghamshire CCC, with Allen explaining: “I have a lot of contacts throughout rugby and try to pick as many people’s brains as possible, but Peter will be able to provide an outside view.
“I got on really well with him when we first met and as a former England cricket coach he’s got vast experience of dealing with different aspects of elite sport. I’m enjoying my coaching after being forced to quit playing and this will help me to progress.”
After beating Italy and Wales in their opening Six Nations matches, England U20s take on Scotland this Friday looking to enhance their Grand Slam chances.
Allen said: “It was difficult in Italy with poor travelling and awful pitch conditions so it was a character-building win there, and we backed that up against Wales.
“We could have been a bit more clinical last week but there’s been a good progression and there’s a hell of a lot of talent in this squad. Gabriel and Sam will bring a lot of what they learnt back into the squad and we’ll go to Scotland with some confidence.”
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