With the Six Nations looming soon that means we will also have the yearly treat of the U20s tournament. It is always intriguing and exciting to see the young guns perform at that level. This year we potentially see the strongest England U20s side ever. However they will face strong competition from the likes of France who won the 2018 U20 World Cup.
Here at Last Word on Rugby we will be looking at six names to watch out for in this year’s tournament. Some more well-known names have mean omitted as they are likely to not be released by their clubs. This also gives us an opportunity to shine a light on the less well-known individuals.
England's youngsters have been putting the hard yards in ahead of Friday's opener against Ireland ?
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Marcus Street – Tighthead Prop – Exeter Chiefs
Street has made a handful of appearances for the senior side this season, even gaining some premiership experience. He looked to be comfortable at that level where he has won a couple of scrum penalties against far more experienced opposition.
Street is also playing his third season for the U20s after making his debut at just 18. Chiefs clearly value him highly and he should be a real weapon in the scrum for England. His experience at that level will also be invaluable for other members of the squad.
Joel Kpoku – Second Row – Saracens
Having burst onto the scene at last seasons U20 World Cup, Kpoku has continued his rise this year. He has impressed when given the opportunity for Saracens in the Premiership Rugby Cup. Kpoku follows in the footsteps of the likes of Maro Itoje in his position and if he turns out to be anything close to Maro’s quality he is going to be one hell of a player.
Kpoku combines raw power and size with an intelligence for the game which is rarely seen in men his age. He is a really bright prospect and could cause some serious damage for England U20s this time around.
Ted Hill – Back Row – Worcester Warriors
Being an capped international Ted Hill is the most recognisable on this list. His reputation proceeds him; he’s burst onto the Premiership scene impressing for Worcester, so much so that Eddie Jones capped him in the Autumn. That international experience will serve the combative flanker well for England U20s.
Hill’s Premiership and international form have earned him an almost guaranteed starting birth for this side. To prove his worth he needs to replicate that form back in age group rugby. No doubt he’ll shine and hopefully act as a leader in that side.
Sam Maunder – Scrum-Half – Exeter Chiefs
Sam is the second Exeter man on this list and is younger brother to Jack, who also plays at nine for the Chiefs. When we spoke to Maunder before the start of the season he said he was content with playing in the A-League and for his University.
However he has impressed so much he has only played once for the University and has in fact played three times in the Premiership. Maunder could be a man to build the England U20s side around as he will still be available next year. He’s one to watch for sure and expect him to continue his rise in this season’s tournament.
Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints)/Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors) – Centre
We are cheating a bit here but the strength of England’s centres is frankly frightening. We could have easily included Cam Redpath in this mention such is the strength of their midfield. Dingwall is another returning member to the England U20’s side and also boasts Premiership experience this season. He is an excellent defender as well as useful in attack making him a real handful both at senior and age group level.
Lawrence is another player that is already making an impact at club level with a number of appearances for Worcester. He has played in all Worcester’s Challenge Cup matches, impressing with 80 minute performances. Lawrence returns for his second season of England U20s rugby and a centre paring with either Dingwall or Redpath could be a sight to behold.
Ollie Sleightholme – Winger – Northampton Saints
Sleightholme is son of Saints legend Jon; firmly following in his father’s footsteps. He is also a successful 7s player having won a silver medal at the Youth Commonwealth Games. Sleightholme will link up with the England U20s for the first time this year and will look to bring his pace and power to that side.
He has already impressed in the Premiership and has already scored a couple of tries. We are expecting big things from Sleightholme, he is relatively inexperienced when it comes to top level 15s rugby. However that should not hamper him at all in this Six Nations.
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