England coach Rob Hunter admits it wasn’t an easy task to select his 26-man squad for the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 in Italy with many players having put their hands up for selection during the RBS Under 20 Six Nations Grand Slam winning campaign.
Hunter, though, proclaims himself “very happy” with the squad which will be attempting to bounce back from the disappointment of finishing fourth in Argentina last year after being runners-up to New Zealand in both 2008 and 2009.
Five members of that 2010 squad will travel to Italy in prop Mako Vunipola, hooker Rob Buchanan, second row Charlie Matthews, number 8 Alex Gray and wing Christian Wade for a tournament where England will face Ireland, Scotland and South Africa in Pool C.
The squad announced on Tuesday – a month before the tournament begins – is built around the hugely successful England Under 18 side that lost only once in three years and features a lot of players with Aviva Premiership experience.
There are also some familiar names to English rugby fans with Guy Armitage, the younger brother of England internationals Delon and Steffon, Saracens regular fly half Owen Farrell, the son of former England centre Andy, and George Ford, the son of England defensive coach Mike.
Beware Irish passion
Ford contributed 76 points to England’s Grand Slam campaign, pulling the strings in a talented backline which included the likes of centre Elliot Daly and wing Andy Short who both scored four tries in the defeat of Italy.
“We’re very happy with the 26 selected,” insisted Hunter, who was Mark Mapletoft’s assistant in Argentina last year. “It wasn’t easy to narrow it down, we had a lot of competition, but a lot of the lads played well throughout the Six Nations and deserve their seat on the plane to Italy.
“It’s a real shame for both Jamie Elliott and Kieran Low who miss out [through injury] unfortunately, they both performed really well throughout the Six Nations but it’s up to the guys who have come in to reproduce that form.”
England will kick off their campaign against Ireland in Treviso on 10 June, a side they beat 36-21 in last year’s pool stages as well as 46-15 more recently in the Six Nations, albeit against an under-strength Irish missing several players through Magners League commitments.
“The JWC is a very different competition to the Six Nations. There are a lot of games in a relatively short amount of time. The first one against Ireland, when everyone is fresh, will be very tough. No matter who rocks up in an Ireland shirt, they will always play with incredible pride and incredible passion.”
England will then tackle Scotland, a side they overwhelmed 56-8 in the Six Nations, four days later again at the Stadio Communale di Monigo, before facing South Africa – third place finishes in each JWC to date, in Padova on 18 June.
England Under 20 squad
Forwards: Mako Vunipola (Bristol Rugby), Ryan Bower (Leicester Tigers), Will Collier (Harlequins), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Koree Britton (Gloucester Rugby), Rob Buchanan (Harlequins), Mikey Haywood (Northampton Saints), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Sam Twomey (Harlequins), Charlie Matthews (Harlequins), Sam Jones (London Wasps), Matt Everard (Leicester Tigers), Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors), Alex Gray (Newcastle Falcons).
Backs: Chris Cook (Bath Rugby), Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Ryan Mills (Gloucester Rugby), Guy Armitage (London Irish), Elliot Daly (London Wasps), Jonathan Joseph (London Irish), Andy Short (Worcester Warriors), Marland Yarde (London Irish), Christian Wade (London Wasps), Ben Ransom (Saracens).
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