England Under 20 coach Rob Hunter has named his elite player squad of 32 players for the 2012/13 season, one he believes is an “exciting, skilful and powerful” group capable of defending their RBS Six Nations title.
Hunter, in his third season as England coach, has kept faith with 10 players from the IRB Junior World Championship 2012 in South Africa, where England recorded their worst finish of seventh after losses to the Baby Boks and Ireland.
Eight of these are in the forwards with Dom Barrow, Jack Clifford, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Max Crumpton, Alex Hepburn, Nathan Morris, Kyle Sinckler and David Sisi, with Exeter Chiefs duo Sam Hill and Henry Slade returning in the backs.
Five others played for the Under 20s last year, including Anthony Watson who missed out on the Junior World Championship through injury, while another five make the step up from the Under 18 level.
“We’re excited to work with the players in our squad,” said Hunter. We have some guys back who played for us last season and five who played at Under 18 level last campaign.
“There are also a number of players who have shown up well for their clubs in pre-season.
“There is always huge competition at this age grade and a lot of players getting first team rugby at their clubs. It’s tough to narrow that down and we expect players to continue to push for inclusion.
“It’s an exciting, skilful and powerful group. Competition for places will be high, but that’s just what you want.”
England head coach Stuart Lancaster added: “The England Under 20 squad is once again a strong one and the amount of competition for places in each position reflects well on the work the regional academies at clubs are doing.
“A lot of the players in this squad have come through our age group international programme and that goes to show how well the development pathway is working with senior players progressing through from the 18s into the Under 20s and then hopefully pushing for places in the senior and Saxons elite player squads.
England Under 20 elite player squad
Forwards: Dominic Barrow (Leeds Carnegie), Jack Clifford (Harlequins), Luke Cowan Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Max Crumpton (Saracens), Matt Hankin (Saracens), Alec Hepburn (London Wasps), Tom Jubb (Saracens), Ross Moriarty (Gloucester Rugby), Nathan Morris (London Wasps), Tom Price (Leicester Tigers), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), David Sisi (London Irish), Scott Spurling (Saracens), Elliott Stooke (Gloucester Rugby), Harry Wells (Leicester Tigers), Scott Wilson (Newcastle Falcons).
Backs: Jack Arnott (Exeter Chiefs), Callum Braley (Bristol Rugby), Tom Collins (Northampton Saints), Alex Day (Northampton Saints), Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby), Nathan Fowles (Sale Sharks), Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Will Hooley (Northampton Saints), Ben Howard (Worcester Warriors), Mark Jennings (Sale Sharks), Richard Lane (Bath Rugby), Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Stephenson (Northampton Saints), Josh Watkins (Worcester Warriors), Anthony Watson (London Irish).