Discipline holds the key to England’s chances of starting their U20s Six Nations campaign in style, says experienced flanker Richard Capstick.
Capstick and his cohorts enter the lion’s den when they take on the reigning double-world champions France in Grenoble this Saturday, where they will be desperate to avoid the pitfalls that dogged their chances of winning the Junior World Cup last June.
Alfie Barbeary’s red card for a dump tackle, along with yellows for Manu Vunipola and Aaron Hinckley contributed to a 42-26 opening day defeat to Ireland that wrecked their campaign – any repeat against France now would be equally disastrous.
Exeter No.7 Capstick told The Rugby Paper: “I really enjoyed the World Cup in Argentina but it was obviously disappointing to lose that first game against Ireland because after that we did really well and felt it was a tournament we could have won.
“The thing that let us down was our discipline. It’s always difficult playing your first game away, especially to a team like France who are the world champions, but it’s something we’ve got to manage and we’ll be well prepared by the coaches.
“We beat France in last year’s Six Nations and know we’ve got a lot of quality and can beat anyone on our day. But as players we need to deliver now and I feel we’ve got enough experienced players in our squad who can become real leaders there.
“We know how tough it will be against France but we’ve got half-backs in Sam Maunder and Manu Vunipola who can control a game and have big-game experience between them – then in the forwards guys like Alfie will be keen to show up well.
“Manu’s been very impressive for Saracens this season and Alfie’s an incredible player as well. We’ve got a lot of boys who’ve come through the system and played together at U18s and U20s, so we’ve built those strong relationships in the squad.”
Seven years ago, current Exeter stars Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ollie Devoto, Alec Hepburn, Sam Hill and Tom Price were part of the ground-breaking England U20s side that completed a Six Nations and Junior World Cup ‘double’.
Capstick, 19, is keen to follow, adding: “A lot of boys at the club have won the Six Nations and World Cup and I really want to do that now. It’s my last year in the 20s programme so it would be nice to look back at it as a stepping stone in my career.
“It’s good to play with other young boys from different clubs and everyone’s excited to learn. What we do at Exeter is amazingly successful, but it’s always good to sample different styles, be in a different environments and learn from new coaches.”
Having appeared seven times for Exeter’s first team, Taunton-born Capstick is flourishing at Chiefs, surrounded by a plethora of Test-class mentors.
He added: “There’s so much competition at the club but it’s a brilliant place to learn from fantastic guys like Matt Kvesic, Don Armand and Sam Simmonds.
“Just being around them in training pushes you on and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot from ‘Kev’ (Kvesic), especially with his work over the ball, how he scavenges and how he can manipulate a player on the floor to pull off those crucial turnovers.
“When you look at great ball-carriers like Dave Ewers – what he does around the five-metre line – and Simmo as well, if I try to assimilate some of that into my own game, you’re going to be in a good place for many years to come and that’s my aim.
England team to play France (Saturday, Grenoble, 8pm kick-off)
England U20: 15 Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons), 14 Gabriel Hamer-Webb (Bath), 13 Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks), 12 Max Ojomah (Bath), 11 Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks), 10 Manu Vunipola (Saracens), 9 Sam Maunder (capt, Exeter Chiefs); 1 James Whitcombe (Leicester Tigers, 2 Theo Dan (Saracens), 3 Luke Green (London Irish), 4 George Hammond (Harlequins), 5 Ben Donnell (London Irish), 6 JJ Tonks (Northampton Saints), 7 Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs), 8 Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)