Bath Rugby's Josh Bayliss and Zach Mercer have been named in the England U20 matchday squad for the opening fixture of the 2017 Six Nations against France at Sandy Park tomorrow, kick-off 12:00.
Mercer, who has just signed a contract extension with the Blue, Black and White will take his place in the starting line-up at number eight, while Bayliss will be looking to make an impact as a replacement.
The fixture will be live on Sky Sports 5 and is the first of three England matches taking place on the opening day of the Six Nations, with the men and the women also kicking off their respective campaigns.
Back row Ben Earl, who recently made his senior debut for Aviva Premiership champions Saracens, will captain the side which includes five players who featured in the triumphant World Rugby U20 Championship campaign last summer.
Mercer, Sam Aspland-Robinson, Max Malins, Harry Randall and Max Wright all return to the side with ten players set to make their England U20 debut.
The front row includes props Ollie Dawe and Joseph Morris alongside Gloucester hooker Joe Mullis, while Saracens pair Nick Isiekwe and Jack Nay are named as lock forwards.
Mercer and Tom Curry have both played Premiership rugby this season and take their place in the back row, alongside skipper Earl who will start at openside flanker.
Experienced duo Randall and Malins have 14 England U20 caps between them and take their place at scrum half and fly half respectively.
The backline includes Will Butler (Worcester Warriors) and Max Wright (Yorkshire Carnegie) in the centres, both of whom have played first team rugby for their clubs this season.
Harlequins’ Aspland-Robinson and London Irish’s Joe Cokanasiga are named on the wings with Tom Parton starting at full back.
Saturday’s clash against France will be the first game under the new England U20 coaching structure. It was announced this week that Louis Deacon, Ian Vass and Tom Williams have joined the England U20 management team for the duration of the season as part of a new coach development agreement signed between the RFU and Premiership Rugby.
“The U20 Six Nations is a fantastic opportunity for these players and management to continue their development on the international stage.” said Dean Ryan, Head of International Player Development at the RFU.
“All of the starting 15 have previously played at England U18 level so we are aware of the qualities they will bring to the team and the match will be a test of the intensity levels required of them at this level.”
Back row forward Josh Bayliss, who captained England U18 on their tour to South Africa last summer, is one of eight replacements for this match.
England U20 squad to face France U20
15. Tom Parton (London Irish)
14. Joe Cokanasiga (London Irish)
13. Max Wright (Yorkshire Carnegie)
12. Will Butler (Worcester Warriors)
11. Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins)
10. Max Malins (Saracens)
9. Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby)
8. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby)
7. Ben Earl (Saracens) captain
6. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks)
5. Nick Isiekwe (Saracens)
4. Jack Nay (Saracens)
3. Joseph Morris (Worcester Warriors)
2. Joe Mullis (Gloucester Rugby)
1. Ollie Dawe (Bristol Rugby)
16. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons)
17. Jake Pope (Sale Sharks)
18. Ciaran Knight (Gloucester Rugby)
19. Justin Clegg (Worcester Warriors)
20. Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby)
21. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
22. Jacob Umaga (Wasps)
23. Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
England U20 2017 Six Nations fixtures:
All of the home England U20 Six Nations fixtures will be shown live on Sky Sports.
England v France: Saturday 4th February – Sandy Park, Exeter (KO 12:00pm)
Wales v England: Friday 10th February – Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay (KO 7:15pm)
England v Italy: Friday 24th February – Darlington Mowden Park (KO 7:45pm)
England v Scotland: Saturday 11th March – Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton (KO 6:15pm)
Ireland v England: Friday 17th March – Donnybrook Stadium, (KO 6:00pm)