With a little over 200 days to go until the IRB Junior World Championship 2011 kicks off in Italy, Pool C opponents South Africa and England are stepping up preparations in their quest to end New Zealand’s dominance of the prestigious Under 20 tournament.
South Africa, who beat England 27-22 in last year’s Championship in Argentina to again finish in third place, like their rivals have a new coach at the helm with Dawie Theron replacing Eric Sauls and Rob Hunter filling the void left by Mark Mapletoft.
While England have the Under 20 Six Nations starting on 4 February to fine tune their preparations for the Junior World Championship, the South African hopefuls will converge on Cape Town next week for Under 20 trials.
Five players named in a 39-strong training squad were involved in the Baby Boks’ campaign in Argentina, although full back Jaco Taute and wing Wandile Mjekevu will not attend the trials due to commitments with their Super Rugby team the Lions.
Francois Venter, Lohan Jacobs and Siya Kolisi will though be joined by promising young players from the High Performance programmes, including former South African Schools captain Pieter Rademan, with all hoping to follow last year’s star Patrick Lambie into the Springbok squad.
“A lot of effort at SARU will be directed at ensuring that our Under 20s receive the necessary support in the build up to these World Championships in Italy later this year,” said SARU CEO Jurie Roux.
“We could have players from these trials that will go on to represent the Baby Boks this year and ultimately go on all the way and represent the Springboks in the future. Patrick Lambie and Elton Jantjies, who earned their Under 20 colours last year, are two examples which gives us hope that a pathway is there within our structures.”
Mervin Green, SARU Manager - Playing the Game, added: “Dawie has spent most of his time as our new SA Under 20 head coach familiarising himself with the playing resources we have in South Africa.The camp will hopefully give him further insight and allow him to gauge where we are in terms of our rugby preparation.
“Last year, our SA Under 20 training squads competed in three friendlies against French Invitational teams in preparation of the World Champs in Argentina, as part of SARU’s strategic plan to ensure that our junior players gain international exposure against the world’s top teams. We will once again be aiming to arrange international fixtures for this group of players during the next couple of months.”
Huge competition for England places
Hunter, meanwhile, has announced two changes to his Under 20 Elite Player squad for the season ahead with centre Guy Armitage – the younger brother of England international Delon and Steffon – and Mike Haywood coming in at the expense of Marcus Watson and Billy Vunipola.
“I’ve been impressed with both Guy and Mike, they came out to Portugal with us on our training camp and looked sharp,” explained Hunter, who will have a week’s training camp with the squad at Surrey Sports Park next week.
“They were close to being named in the initial squad but there’s a lot of competition at this age grade and a lot of players getting first team rugby at their respective clubs, so it’s tough to narrow that down to a squad of 32. We’ve also got a few players coming back from injury and that will strengthen us hugely.
“Elliot Daly is doing very well with Wasps while Owen Farrell and Manu Tuilagi are seeing a lot of action with their clubs and the likes of Will Collier, Rob Buchanan and Ben Ransom have been on the bench for Premiership matches – that kind of experience is vital in their development.”
RFU Head of Elite Player Development Stuart Lancaster added: “We think that this squad is a strong one and the amount competition for places in each position reflects well on the work the regional academies 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 players progressing through from the 18s into the Under 20s and then hopefully pushing for places in the Senior and Saxons EPS Squads."
South Africa Under 20 trial and training squad
Forwards: Arno Botha (The Sharks), Marcell Coetzee (The Sharks), Siseko Jafta (The Sharks), Cornell du Preez (Platinum Leopards), Gabriel Strydom (Platinum Leopards), Siya Kolisi (DHL Western Province), Nizaam Carr (DHL Western Province), Eben Etzebeth (DHL Western Province), Wilhelm van der Slys (DHL Western Province), Ruan Venter (Golden Lions), Jose Julies (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Mbongeni Mbonambi (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Bernard Van Heerden (Free State), Bonga Ntubeni (DHL Western Province), Juan Schoeman (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Stephan Kotze (Free State), Wiseman Kamanga (Lions), Frans Malherbe (DHL Western Province), Nicholas Schonert (The Sharks), Moshudu Masela (Platinum Leopards)
Backs: Jaco Taute (Golden Lions), Ulrich Beyers (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Wandile Mjekevu (Golden Lions), Courtnall Skosana (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Emil Schwarz (The Sharks), Mandla Dube (The Sharks), Francois Venter (Vodacom Blue Bulls) Paul Jordaan (The Sharks), Piet Lindeque (The Sharks), Heimar Williams (The Sharks), Andries Swanepoel (Free State), Jan Serfontein (Free State), Jacobus Lourens (Platinum Leopards), Garth April (Golden Lions), Tony Jantjies (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Ricky Schroeder (DHL Western Province), Lohan Jacobs (Vodacom Blue Bulls), Pieter Rademan (Free State)
England Under 20 squad
Forwards: Ryan Bower (Leicester Tigers), Koree Britton (Gloucester Rugby), Rob Buchanan (Harlequins)*, Will Collier (Harlequins), Matt Everard (Leicester Tigers), Alex Gray (Newcastle Falcons)*, Jonny Harris (Leicester Tigers), Sam Jones (London Wasps), Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors), Addison Lockley (Exeter Chiefs), Kieran Low (London Irish), Charlie Matthews (Harlequins)*, Ollie Stedman (Leeds Carnegie), Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks), Sam Twomey (Harlequins), Mike Haywood (Northampton Saints), Mako Vunipola (Bristol Rugby)*.
Backs: Chris Cook (Bath Rugby), Elliot Daly (London Wasps), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Jonathan Joseph (London Irish)*, Ryan Mills (Gloucester Rugby), Ben Ransom (Saracens), Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby), Jake Sharp (Saracens)*, Andy Short (Worcester Warriors), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Christian Wade (London Wasps)*, Jack Wallace (London Wasps)*, Guy Armitage (London Irish), Marland Yarde (London Irish).
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