England U20 head coach Alan Dickens has named a 32-man squad to compete in the Six Nations and World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy this year.
Dickens, appointed to the role in late November, has included three players who are yet to represent England at any age-grade level.
Dickens will hope his team can improve on last year’s fifth-place finish with high hopes for a tournament win. In the build-up to the competition, check out the BetWinner review by Betenemy to get the latest bet bonuses before backing your U20 champions.
Saracens prop Sam Crean, Worcester Warriors full-back Noah Heward and Bath wing Gabriel Hamer-Webb are the three players in with a chance of a debut cap when the Six Nations begins for England with a trip to France on February 1.
A number of players who helped England to a third-place finish last year in the Six Nations and a fifth place claim at the U20 Championship in Argentina are retained.
Northampton Saints wing Ollie Sleightholme’s exploits with England, which saw him score five tries in 2019, will see him continue in a back three alongside U20 World Championship top points-scorer Josh Hodge, of Newcastle Falcons.
Hooker Alfie Barbeary, lock Richard Capstick, no.8 Rusiate Tuima, scrum-half Sam Maunder, fly-half Manu Vunipola and centre Connor Doherty are all welcomed back into the fold.
Dickens’ foray into the most senior age-grade for England comes after Steve Bates left the RFU last July after a little under three years as England U20 head coach.
The former scrum-half, who worked as defence coach and academy manager during his time at Northampton Saints, wasted no time in identifying the players he felt could add steel to the nucleus of the team.
“Players have been selected through a combination of their performances last year and displays in domestic and European competitions this season,” Dickens said upon announcing the team.
He added: “It’s been encouraging to see a number of the group playing Premiership, Champions Cup and Challenge Cup rugby and I believe we’ve selected a really strong 32 for our elite player squad.
“We also have a wider squad that we know will contribute and be crucial during the Six Nations as well as the World Rugby U20 Championship and my message to those players not in the 32 would be to stay fit and engaged with everything we are doing.
“I want to see the players arrive in camp on Sunday (January 5) with a desire to learn, improve and take in a high level of detail. We have less than a month to bond as a squad before our first Six Nations fixture so getting them to gel will be a key challenge for the players as well as management team.
“I also want players to enjoy themselves. Being selected for England at any level is a proud moment in their careers and they should remember that. Hopefully, this is the next step in their ultimate dream of playing for the senior side.
“We’ve had our first camp in November which was a really positive experience. It was made even more positive for the players when Eddie Jones was able to come in and deliver a session and that had a really powerful impact on them. This is a stepping stone to senior international rugby.”
Alfie Barbeary (Wasps Rugby)
Harvey Beaton (Saracens)
Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs)
Jack Clement (Gloucester Rugby)
Sam Crean (Saracens)
Theodore Dan (Saracens)
Ben Donnell (London Irish)
Rob Farrar (Newcastle Falcons)
Josh Gray (Gloucester Rugby)
Luke Green (London Irish)
George Martin (Leicester Tigers)
Nahum Merigan (Bath Rugby)
Hugh Tizard (Harlequins)
JJ Tonks (Northampton Saints)
Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
James Whitcombe (Leicester Tigers)
George Barton (Gloucester Rugby)
Joe Carpenter (Sale Sharks)
Tom Curtis (Sale Sharks)
Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks)
Gabriel Hamer-Webb (Bath Rugby)
Will Haydon-Wood (Newcastle Falcons)
Noah Heward (Worcester Warriors)
Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)
Max Ojomoh (Bath Rugby)
Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)
Raphael Quirke (Sale Sharks)
Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks)
Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers)
Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers)
Manu Vunipola (Saracens)
France v England
Saturday, 1 February, KO 8pm GMT, Stade des Alpes, Grenoble
Scotland v England
Friday 7 February, KO 7.30pm GMT, Myreside, Edinburgh
England v Ireland
Friday, 21 February, KO 7.45pm GMT, Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton.
Live on Sky Sports
England v Wales
Friday, 6 March, KO 7.45pm GMT, Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester.
Live on Sky Sports
Italy v England
Sunday, 15 March, KO 5.30pm GMT, Payanini Rugby Center, Verona
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