Bath Rugby Academy's Darren Atkins has been added to the England U20 Elite Player Squad as they target the defence of their Six Nations title.
The full-back joins fellow Bath Academy back row Zach Mercer in the squad, and is attending this week’s camp in Loughborough as a replacement for John Williams, who has first team commitments with London Irish.
Former Bath Rugby player Jon Callard will lead the campaign and steps in as interim head coach after Ian Peel moved on to join the Saracens coaching team and to assist the England senior team as scrum coach for the 2016 RBS 6 Nations.
The squad ethos remains the same as Callard explains: “The mission for this group is to make other people shine. It is about players being individually the best they can be, making the others the best they want to be. This comes from having a strong work ethic and a team focus. We want to put the right processes in place to play exciting international rugby and to develop these aspiring international players for the future senior team.”
Eddie Jones named a number of players in his squad who have recently come through the development pathway including last season’s U20 prop Paul Hill, former World Rugby U20 Championship winning captains Jack Clifford and Maro Itoje plus Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto and Sam Hill.
Callard will work alongside the newly-appointed backs coach Rory Teague, who joined from Saracens Academy, and experienced age grade forwards coach Peter Walton. The trio will be will be supported by specialists Simon Hardy and Richard Hill.
“We had tough camps in August and December last year but have a number of changes for this week,” added Callard. “We now need to get everyone quickly to speed and the endeavour and enthusiasm shown by the players in training yesterday will certainly help that process.
“The final preparations ahead of a Championship are always the most challenging with competition now just weeks away. Facing a fired up Scotland team in Glasgow on the first weekend will be a good test for these players - the first game is always exciting and will give us a good understanding of where we are at as a squad.”
In a double header the U20s take to the field at Glasgow’s Broadwood Stadium after the England Women. Once again their Championship mirrors that of the seniors, but with games taking place on the Friday night of each weekend, and their home games against Ireland and Wales will be played in Newcastle and Bristol respectively (both live on Sky Sports).
Last year’s Six Nations went down-to-the-wire with the game against France on the final weekend becoming a title decider. England’s 24-11 victory nudged them ahead on points, making it four title wins in five years.
England U20 Elite Player Squad 2016
*Ralph Adams-Hale (Saracens) and Max Green (Yorkshire Carnegie) are training with the squad as injury cover for Lewis Boyce and Jack Maunder respectively. Joe Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs) temporarily takes the place of Theo Brophy Clews who is fulfilling club duties.
Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins)
Darren Atkins (Bath Rugby)
Joshua Bainbridge (Yorkshire Carnegie)
Lewis Boyce (Yorkshire Carnegie)*
Theo Brophy Clews (London Irish)*
Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons)
Andrew Kitchener (Worcester Warriors)
Max Malins (Saracens)
Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints)
Joseph Marchant (Harlequins)
Jack Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)*
Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby)
Joe Mullis (Gloucester Rugby)
George Nott (Sale Sharks)
Paolo Odogwu (Leicester Tigers)
George Perkins (Saracens)
Jake Pope (Sale Sharks)
Taylor Prell (Yorkshire Carnegie)
Mathew Protheroe (Gloucester Rugby)
Will Safe (Gloucester Rugby)
Jamie Shillcock (Worcester Warriors)
Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors)
Samuel Smith (Worcester Warriors)
Stanley South (Harlequins)
William Stuart (Wasps)
Huw Taylor (Worcester Warriors)
Oliver Thorley (Gloucester Rugby)
Billy Walker (Saracens)
Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie)
Calum Waters (Harlequins)
Tom West (Wasps)
Archie White (Harlequins)
U20 Six Nations:
Friday 5 February (8pm)
Broadwood Stadium, Glasgow
Friday 12 February (7.10pm local time)
Stadio Pacifici, San Dona' Di Piave
Friday 26 February (6.05pm)
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Tickets are available here: https://www.eticketing.co.uk/newcastle-falcons/details/event.aspx?itemref=2863
Friday 11 March (7.45pm)
Ashton Gate, Bristol
Tickets are available here: http://tickets.bristol-sport.co.uk/categories/bristolrugbyhome
Friday 18 March (6.45pm local time)
Stade du Hameau, Pau