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Bath Rugby trio named in England U20 squad for semi-final clash

12 June 2017

Bath Rugby's Darren Atkins, Josh Bayliss and Zach Mercer have been named in the England U20 matchday squad to play South Africa in the semi-final of the World Rugby U20 Championship tomorrow, kick-off 15:00 BST (live on ITV 4).

Mercer captains the team from number eight, whilst Atkins makes his first start of the competition after being called up as an injury replacement. Club teammate Bayliss will be keen to influence proceedings from the bench.  

Gabriel Ibitoye, who has five tries so far in the competition, is named on the left wing while Max Malins again starts at fly-half.

Alex Mitchell is chosen at scrum half while Dino Lamb joins Ben Earl and Mercer in the backrow.

Theo Brophy Clews partners Will Butler in midfield and Tom Parton plays full back.

“I want to see the guys go out there, enjoy themselves and to play with a lot of energy,” said England U20 assistant coach Tom Williams.

“This group has got huge character, they have shown it against Ireland to win the Grand Slam and they showed it against Australia to get us into this semi-final.”

England are unbeaten in the tournament, having sealed bonus-point victories against Samoa and Wales before defeating Australia in their final pool game.

They face South Africa in a repeat of last year’s semi-final and Williams is relishing the fixture.

“South Africa are an interesting team because they provide two separate type of challenges, they have a big forward pack and some quick and exciting backs.” he added.

Ibitoye is the joint top scorer of the tournament in Georgia and Williams hailed his performances while also recognising the opportunity for Atkins, who was called into the Championship as a late injury replacement.

“I’m thrilled for Gabs, he’s fulfilling some of the promise he showed throughout his academy time at Quins,” he said.

“It’s a great opportunity for Darren, I feel for Paolo Odogwu who did a great job against Australia and produced a near faultless performance, however, Darren has a little bit more experience in the back three and that will help with South Africa’s kicking threat.”

England have called up James Grayson and England Sevens back Callum Sirker to cover for injuries, with Max Wright ruled out of the tournament.

“It’s disappointing to have lost Max, along with Ali Crossdale, Dom Morris and Sam Aspland-Robinson,” said Williams.

“They have made a huge contribution, however, the guys that have come in have done really well, helped fill the void and I’m sure James and Callum will do likewise.  

“Having also seen five players called into the senior squad for Argentina, it shows the strength in depth that we have in the player pathway.”

England U20 team to face South Africa:

15. Tom Parton (London Irish)
14. Darren Atkins (Bath Rugby)
13. Will Butler (Worcester Warriors)
12. Theo Brophy Clews (London Irish)
11. Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
10. Max Malins (Saracens)
9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
1. Ralph Adams-Hale (Saracens)
2. Joe Mullis (Gloucester Rugby)
3. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
4. Josh Caulfield (Exeter Chiefs)
5. Justin Clegg (Worcester Warriors)
6. Dino Lamb (Harlequins)
7. Ben Earl (Saracens)
8. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby) (capt) 

Replacements:

16. Henry Walker (Gloucester Rugby)
17. Ollie Dawe (Bristol Rugby)
18. Ciaran Knight (Gloucester Rugby)
19. Max Davies (Newcastle Falcons)
20. Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby)
21. Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby)
22. Jacob Umaga (Wasps)
23. Paolo Odogwu (Sale Sharks)

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