Bath Rugby Academy number eight Zach Mercer has been named on the bench for England U20 in their clash with Grand Slam hopefuls Wales at Bristol’s Ashton Gate tomorrow night (kick off 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports 2).
Mercer could make his third U20 appearance in an England team showing five changes to the starting line-up which lost 26-20 to Ireland in round three after a 17-6 lead was built through a strong first-half performance.
England are without Joe Marchant, who has been retained by Harlequins, and this creates an opportunity for George Worth to partner fellow Leicester Tiger Charlie Thacker in the centres.
Worth, who is duel registered at Coventry RFC, becomes the 25th player to benefit from making his U20 debut in this Six Nations with others ruled out through injury or first team club commitments.
Thacker’s shift from inside to outside centre is one of two positional changes. The other is in the forwards with George Nott moving to six as Andrew Kitchener comes into the second row.
The inclusion of Alex Moon and Calum Waters on the bench could mean a further two new caps for England as they aim to finish with strong performances against Wales and France and build towards the World Rugby U20 Championship in Manchester in June.
Head Coach (and former Bath Rugby fullback) Jon Callard said: “Out of learning comes development and from reviewing the game last week we continue to move forward. This Six Nations has been a great opportunity for a number of players to take their chance, show what they are capable of at this level, and put themselves in contention for the summer."
“Wales will pose a very physical threat up front and it is great to name new caps while also welcoming back the experienced Lewis Boyce. He has represented England through the pathway and proven himself to be a really diligent professional in his attitude and response to injury.”
England and Wales have met on 11 previous occasions at U20 level with Wales’ only victory being 21-15 at Colwyn Bay last season. They have, however, won their last five outings in the Six Nations and are currently on track for a Grand Slam.
Callard added: “There is a lot at stake for both sides – we want to put on a good performance in front of a big passionate home crowd in an impressive stadium and Wales are just two steps away from a defining clean sweep. I’ve been impressed with the resilience they have shown in previous games, we are set for an exciting game tomorrow night.”
England U20 squad to play Wales:
15. Max Malins (Saracens)
14. George Perkins (Saracens)
13. Charlie Thacker (Leicester Tigers)
12. George Worth (Leicester Tigers)
11. Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby)
10. Mathew Protheroe (Gloucester Rugby)
9. Max Green (Yorkshire Carnegie)
1. Lewis Boyce (Yorkshire Carnegie)
2. Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors)
3. Will Stuart (Wasps)
4. Huw Taylor (Worcester Warriors)
5. Andrew Kitchener (Worcester Warriors)
6. George Nott (Sale Sharks)
7. Sam Smith (Worcester Warriors)
8. Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons) (c)
16. Curtis Langdon (London Irish)
17. Tom West (Wasps)
18. Billy Keast (Exeter Chiefs)
19. Alex Moon (Northampton Saints)
20. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby)
21. Calum Waters (Harlequins)
22. Joe Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs)
23. Paolo Odogwu (Leicester Tigers)
U20 Six Nations:
Scotland 24 - 6 England
Friday 5 February (8pm)
Broadwood Stadium, Glasgow
Italy 7 - 42 England
Friday 12 February (7.10pm local time)
Stadio Pacifici, San Dona' Di Piave
England 20-26 Ireland
Friday 26 February (6.05pm) - live on Sky Sports 3
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Friday 11 March (7.45pm)
Ashton Gate, Bristol
Friday 18 March (6.45pm local time)
Stade du Hameau, Pau