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Speedster Atkins set for Scottish challenge

10 June 2016

Academy fullback Darren Atkins will once again start for England in their second World Rugby Under 20 Championship fixture against Scotland at Manchester City Academy Stadium tomorrow (18:00, live on Sky Sports).

New Bath Rugby recruit Jack Walker returns to captain the side, replacing hooker Jack Singleton in a team that has five changes and one positional move from the one that beat Italy 48-10 in the opening Pool B fixture. Bath Rugby Academy back rower Zach Mercer, a try-scorer in the opening-round victory against Italy, is again named on the bench.

They will potentially face a Scotland team containing Bath Rugby Academy fly-half Adam Hastings, who proved crucial to his side's win against Australia earlier this week. 

Winger Matt Gallagher and flanker Will Evans both come into the side and make their debuts for England at U20 level.

Head Coach Martin Haag said “Training has been good, and we continue to build and improve each week, so I’m delighted with how we are developing as a squad. It’s a short turnaround between games, we have recovered well and when we have trained it’s been at a high intensity. The attitude and way the boys approach training has been spot on, we need to transfer that onto the field of play.”

“We’ve picked a strong side, making some changes but largely keeping a lot of the same combinations,” said Haag. “We are confident we’ve picked a team that can go out and win against Scotland."

There is a positional change at fly-half for Harry Mallinder who switches to No. 10 from inside centre following an injury to Theo Brophy Clews against Italy.

As a result of that injury to his right foot Brophy Clews can play no further part in the tournament and has been replaced in the squad by Max Wright (Yorkshire Carnegie).

‘It’s hugely disappointing for Theo to be ruled out of the tournament at this stage,” added Haag. 

“He’s a very talented young player and has showed great leadership both on and off the field.  We wish him well with his recovery, he has a bright future ahead of him and he will have the opportunity to be part of the programme next year.”

Johnny Williams comes into inside centre, while Stan South is named at flanker for the match against Scotland – who themselves beat Australia 15-10 on Tuesday.

England were beaten by Scotland in the Six Nations championship earlier this year, but Haag says that result will have no impact on Saturday’s match between the two sides.

“We want to improve on certain aspects, we dropped a few balls and made a couple of errors against Italy so we want to see more accuracy and precision against Scotland,” said Haag.

Over 5000 supporters are expected at Manchester City Academy Stadium on Saturday and Haag hopes home support can help spur his side onto victory.

“That home support is hugely important and it’s crucial for us to start well and get the crowd on their feet,” he said.

“To play at a packed stadium in our home tournament will be added motivation for the players. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s up to them to make the most of it. We need to perform and play with calmness and composure.”

Captain Walker, who will join Bath from Yorkshire Carnegie, was a replacement for the opening-round fixture against Italy and Haag says he will relish leading his country out on Saturday, while acknowledging it will be a special day for the two debutants – having also given six members of the squad their first taste of U20 rugby on Tuesday.

“To lead the side out in a home tournament is fantastic for Jack and I’m sure it will be a proud moment for him.” he said.

England U20 team to face Scotland U20

15. Darren Atkins (Bath Rugby)

14. Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins)

13. Joe Marchant (Harlequins)

12. Johnny Williams (London Irish)

11. Matt Gallagher (Saracens)

10. Harry Mallinder (Northampton Saints)

9. Max Green (Yorkshire Carnegie)

1. Tom West (Wasps)

2. Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie) - captain

3. Billy Walker (Saracens)

4. Stan South (Harlequins)

5. Huw Taylor (Worcester Warriors)

6. George Nott (Sale Sharks)

7. Will Evans (Leicester Tigers)

8. Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons)

16. Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors), 17. Lewis Boyce (Yorkshire Carnegie), 18. Will Stuart (Wasps), 19. Andrew Kitchener (Worcester Warriors), 20. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby), 21. Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby), 22. Max Malins (Saracens), 23. Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby)

England Pool B fixtures:
England 48-10 Italy (Tuesday 7 June) KO 19:45, Manchester City Academy Stadium
England v Scotland (Saturday 11 June) KO 18:00, Manchester City Academy Stadium
England v Australia (Wednesday 15 June) KO 19:45 AJ Bell Stadium
Semi-finals and knock-out matches (Monday 20 June) Details TBC
Final and knock-out games (Saturday 25 June) Details TBC

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