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England U20 boss Steve Bates hoping third time’s the charm in Argentina

Steve Bates will lead England U20 charges

Steve Bates leads England into the U20 World Championship for the third time looking to go one better than the previous two seasons when they lost narrowly in the final.

They begin in Argentina with a clash against Grand Slam winners Ireland on Tuesday, followed by Italy (Saturday) and Australia (June 12). Confidence is up after winning their warm-up against South Africa 35-8 in late April following their second place finish in the Six Nations.

Boss Bates, the former Newcastle Falcons and England Saxons coach, says preparations have gone well as they look to avenge defeats to New Zealand in 2017 and hosts France in last year’s final.

“We’ve been working on specific aspects of our game that will give us the best opportunity to win the title,” Bates told The Rugby Paper. “We had an interesting Six Nations, using 40 players to see all the candidates, and we had a good week before we played South Africa.

“Although the match was untidy, it showed we had made progress in terms of the shape we’re trying to organise and in the players’ confidence. They looked much more comfortable.”

After a disappointing defeat to Ireland in the Six Nations, Bates is hopeful his tide can turn the tables against them on Tuesday.

“The South Africa game was a big step forward and we coped well with their physicality and we opened up some really good scoring opportunities,” he said.

Bates is without Harle-quins fly-half Marcus Smith following his call up to the England side to play the Barbarians. However he has an able deputy in Saracens’ Manu Vunipola, below, and is confident there is enough quality in the side to triumph – if they get their basics right.

“The problem we have each year in the Six Nations is that we don’t have the players long enough to prepare and therefore what we try to do is maybe too complicated,” he said.

“For the South Africa game we tried to simplify everything to get back to a real basic understanding of the framework that we want to build our game on. We stripped everything back and cleared a lot of things up.”

Steve Bates - England U20 head coach
Confident: England U20 head coach Steve Bates. Photo: Getty Images

With only four days between matches and only one team guaranteed to go through from each of the three pools, plus the best runner-up, Bates knows it’s important to start well and use the whole squad.

“You have to get off to a very good start. If you lose your first game and you’ve played your best team, you’ve pretty much got to play your best team again. It’s key that you get to the semi or the final with fresh legs, so you need them to be rested.

“Last year we won well early on and then used our squad and had the final been ten minutes longer we would have stood a very good chance of running the French off their feet.”

Bates added: “Up front especially, where most of the hard work is done, we have strength in depth to rotate our players.

“Ted Hill is a full cap, Joel Kpoku is on the edge of the Saracens team, Alex Coles has played a bit for Northampton and Joe Heyes, even as a tighthead, is on the bench for Leicester every week.”

Having been runners- up twice in a row, Bates says  the team is hungry for more. He added: “We played some really good rugby last year, got to the final and we were really disappointed to lose. These guys would like to go one better.”

England team to play Ireland in U20 World Championship opener: 15 Tom de Glanville (Bath), 14 Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints), 13 Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints – capt), 12 Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks), 11 Tom Seabrook (Gloucester), 10 Manu Vunipola (Saracens), 9 Ollie Fox (Bath); 1 Olly Adkins (Gloucester), 2 Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks), 3 Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers), 4 Joel Kpoku (Saracens), 5 Alex Coles (Northampton Saints), 6 Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors), 7 Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester), 8 Tom Willis (Wasps)

Replacements: 16 Alfie Barbeary (Wasps), 17 Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors), 18 Alfie Petch (Exeter Chiefs), 19 Will Capon (Bristol Bears), 20 James Kenny (Exeter Chiefs), 21 Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs), 22 Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs), 23 Josh Basham (Newcastle Falcons), 24 Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs), 25 Luke James (Sale Sharks), 26 Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks), 27 Arron Reed (Sale Sharks), 28 Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)

FIXTURES: World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina

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