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Mercer to captain England U20 against Australia

7 June 2017

Bath Rugby’s Zach Mercer will captain England U20 in the final pool game of the game of the World Rugby U20 Championship against Australia (kick-off 17:30 BST), with club teammates Josh Bayliss and Darren Atkins named among the replacements.

Mercer will lead the side in Georgia, as they look to progress to the semi-final of the competition. After being called up as an injury replacement last week, Atkins, will be hoping to make an impact off the bench along with Bayliss, who started the first two games of the campaign.

Following bonus-point victories over Samoa and Wales, England will be determined to make it three out of three against an Australia side, who also have a 100% record in the group.  

“It’s been a short turnaround but training has been good and we’ve worked hard off the field more importantly,” said England U20 head coach Ian Vass. “We’re confident in what we’re trying to achieve and that’s to get into a World Rugby U20 Championship semi-final.

“The competition is getting better with every game so we need to improve also and that’s what we’ve tried to achieve in training. If we perform as we can, the result will take care of itself.”

Two members of last year’s winning World Rugby U20 Championship side, Harry Randall and Max Malins, start at scrum-half and fly-half.

Gabriel Ibitoye, who has four tries from two games in the tournament, again plays on the wing while Theo Brophy Clews also starts at centre. There is also a first start for wing Paolo Odogwu, having been called up to replace the injured Ali Crossdale.

“It’s a really big opportunity for Paolo, he has played to a high level all year,” said Vass.

“He’s played in the Premiership so is highly capable and an exciting player. We want to try and get him on the ball because he is a good finisher and a dangerous attacking player.”

Australia are also unbeaten in the tournament and the two sides met each other in last year’s tournament at the same stage.

“Our aim is to win the game and if we do that we’re in the semi-final, but our primary concern is on performing well and beating Australia,” added Vass.

“They are tactically astute so we need to be on our toes as a team and react as well as adapt to whatever they are doing. They have had two tough games and have shown a mental edge to come through them.”

Wing Sam Aspland-Robinson has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury and Vass paid tribute to the Harlequins back.

“It’s hugely disappointing for Sam who has made a great contribution both in this tournament and for the U20s,” said Vass. “We’re also disappointed to be losing a player of his quality.”

England U20 team to face Australia

15. Tom Parton (London Irish)
14. Paolo Odogwu (Sale Sharks)
13. Will Butler (Worcester Warriors)
12. Theo Brophy Clews (London Irish)
11. Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
10. Max Malins (Saracens)
9. Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby)
1. Ollie Dawe (Bristol Rugby)
2. Henry Walker (Gloucester Rugby)
3. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
4. Josh Caulfield (Exeter Chiefs)
5. Jack Nay (Saracens)
6. Dino Lamb (Harlequins)
7. Ben Earl (Saracens)
8. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby) (Capt)

Replacements

16. Joe Mullis (Gloucester Rugby)
17. Ralph Adams-Hale (Saracens)
18. Ciaran Knight (Gloucester Rugby)
19. Justin Clegg (Worcester Warriors)
20. Max Davies (Newcastle Falcons)
21. Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby)
22. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
23. Darren Atkins (Bath Rugby)

You can follow the Bath Rugby trio tomorrow live on the World Rugby Facebook page at 17:30 BST. 

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