RFU Head of Elite Player Development Stuart Lancaster believes the England Under 20 elite squad for the 2011/2012 season named this week has the potential to finally end New Zealand’s dominance of the IRB Junior World Championship.
England lost a thrilling final 33-23 to New Zealand – the only side to lift the distinctive trophy in four editions of the Championship – in Italy back in June and eight members of that match day squad will wear the Red Rose again in the coming season.
Flanker Matt Kvesic, fly half George Ford, centre Elliot Daly and full back Ben Ransom all started the final in Padova, while Sam Twomey, Dan Robson, Ryan Mills and Marland Yarde came off the bench as England came up short in their quest to avoid a third defeat in a JWC final to New Zealand.
Ford, the youngest player at JWC 2011 at 18 years and three months, was one of the standout performers in the tournament and has been nominated for the IRB Junior World Player of the Year, the winner of which will be announced at the IRB Awards in New Zealand on 24 October.
“The goal is to develop players for the England senior side as several have done recently, but the goal is also to win the Junior World Championship and having come close with last year’s squad we feel that this squad has the potential to do that,” said Lancaster.
England will not only be looking to win that elusive JWC title in South Africa in 2012, but also successfully defend their RBS Under 20 Six Nations title, having claimed the Grand Slam this year, scoring over 30 tries and scoring 221 points across the five matches.
“We’re delighted with the players in our latest squad,” admitted head coach Rob Hunter, who will be assisted this season by Nick Walshe. “It’s an experienced group, but also an exciting, skilful and powerful group. Competition for places will be high, but that’s just what you want.”
The class of 2011/12 will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Under 20 players Manu Tuilagi, Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes, Alex Corbisiero and Joe Simpson who have all made England’s squad for Rugby World Cup 2011, the latter as an uncapped player.