Four Bath Rugby Academy players have been selected for England Under-20s Six Nations opener against France on Saturday (17:00 kick-off, live on BBC iPlayer).
Orlando Bailey starts at full-back for Alan Dickens’ side with Ewan Richards lining up in the second row.
Back row Nahum Merigan is named on the bench as scrum-half Tom Carr-Smith who has been called into the squad as cover.
All four players are uncapped at Under-20 level and will make their Six Nations debuts. The club are excited to see them express themselves on the international stage.
Due to COVID-19 regulations teams are permitted to name a squad of 26 players for each fixture in this year’s competition, this means that there are now 11 replacements available for use during a match.
Head coach Dickens said: “We’ve had a really good training week and the attitude and commitment from the lads has been outstanding.
“On Tuesday we were able to have a joint session with Eddie Jones and the senior team. It was fantastic to be able to incorporate that into our preparation for the Six Nations, but also for players to experience what it’s like at the next level.
“France are a quality side and will be a challenge. We need to be ready for what will no doubt be a physical encounter.
“This week the focus has been on us and what we can control. That said, we will need to have the ability to tactically adapt within the game situation.
“I also want the players to go out there and enjoy the experience. For many of them it’s their first Six Nations and that will be a very special moment that I want them to remember on Saturday night.
“We’re looking forward to getting out on pitch at Cardiff Arms Park now, putting in an 80-minute performance and kicking off our Six Nations campaign.”
England U20 starting XV
15 Orlando Bailey (Bath Rugby), 14 Deago Bailey (Bristol Rugby), 13 Jack Bates (Bristol Rugby), 12 Dan Lancaster (Leeds Tykes), 11 Arthur Relton (Exeter Chiefs), 10 Fin Smith (Worcester Warriors), 9 Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers)*; 1 Lewis Holsey (Worcester Warriors), 2 Archie Vanes (Leicester Tigers), 3 Luke Green (London Irish)*, 4 Ewan Richards (Bath Rugby), 5 Alex Groves (Bristol Bears), 6 Freddie Thomas (Gloucester Rugby), 7 Lucas Brooke (London Irish), 8 Jack Clement (Gloucester Rugby)*
16 Sam Riley (Harlequins)*, 17 Phil Brantingham (Newcastle Falcons), 18 Harvey Beaton (Saracens)*, 19 Arthur Clark (Gloucester Rugby), 20 Emeka Ilione (Leicester Tigers), 21 Nahum Merigan (Bath Rugby), 22 Tom Carr-Smith (Bath Rugby), 23 Tommy Mathews (unattached), 24 Phil Cokanasiga (London Irish), 25 Louis Hillman-Cooper (Gloucester Rugby), 26 Tom Litchfield (Northampton Saints)
*Previously capped at U20
WHO ARE OUR FOUR ACADEMY PLAYERS INVOLVED?
Academy Manager Craig Lilley gives the lowdown on the quartet.
Landi has come through the Bath Rugby pathway and attended Beechen Cliff School. It’s hard enough to transition anyway but to transition from schoolboy to senior rugby in Covid times has been really tricky. He came into the senior squad this year and had an influence straight away from leading GPS scores to the way he spoke to people and drove the team forwards. It’s through injury he had his opportunity in the senior team at Bath this season and was rewarded with games in the Premiership and then the European last 16, quarter and semi-finals after that. We’re starting to see his skillset; he’s very calm on the ball, brings people into the game and kicks very well too. It’s his first Under-20s Six Nations and I can’t wait to see him do what he’s done in Premiership and European games in the tournament.
Tom gets his chance at Under-20 level for the first time with Sale Sharks’ Raffi Quirke involved in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs. He is very diligent, and he puts in a huge amount of work to ensure when he gets his opportunities he takes them. He is someone who has really progressed this year and has learned a lot from the senior players by constantly having conversations and seeking out what he needs to do to maximise his game.
Another to attend Beechen Cliff, Nahum has been working really hard on his physical development this year. We want to see more impact from him on both sides of the ball and it will good to see what he can do defensively. He has always been a very good ball carrier so I’m looking forward to seeing him get his hands on the ball and have some good moments. The Six Nations will be a great to see where Nahum is at and how much he has developed.
Ewan has been in the Academy since he was 15 and has had a brilliant year, making his Premiership debut against Harlequins in February. He quietly goes about his business and his line-out skills have improved dramatically to the point where he is now running the line-out within the England age group, something he’ll hopefully be doing in the Six Nations. He has a huge work rate, gets around the field, carries well and tackles; he does a lot of the unseen work and I’m absolutely delighted he’s involved.