Former North Midlands youth players pair James Scott and Kai Owen have been named in the England Under 20s squad for Friday’s one-off international against South Africa at Coventry’s Butts Park Arena (kick-off 7.30pm).
Lock Scott will start the match with his Worcester Warriors team-mate, loosehead prop Owen named as a replacement. Both were England regulars during this season’s Under 20 Six Nations and the match against the Junior Springboks will the chance for them to nail down places in the squad for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Argentina in June.
Warriors flanker Ted Hill, who captained England Under 20s against France, is not available as he will be required for Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership match against Gloucester at Sixways.
A fourth Warriors player, centre Ollie Lawrence, also misses out because of ankle injury which has also ruled him out of the World Rugby Under 20s Championship.
It is the second-successive year that England have played South Africa ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championship having taken them on at Sixways last May.
England Under 20s Head Coach Steve Bates said: “This is an opportunity for these players to stake a claim for a spot in our squad for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship and that is how we are approaching the game.
“It is very timely in terms of when the squad for the Championship gets picked, and for some it could be a very important fixture to get a place on the plane to Argentina.
“Last year’s match against South Africa was an important match in that it highlighted areas we needed to tighten
before we played our first fixture at the Championship in France, while it also gave us an opportunity to play against one of the main contenders for the tournament. We learned a lot about their physicality and how they played and it proved to be a real eye opener for the squad as to what to expect from one of the southern hemisphere nations.”
England Under 20
15 Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)
14 Charlie Powell (Bristol Bears)
13 Sam Spink (Wasps)
12 Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks)
11 Jake Morris (Gloucester Rugby)
10 Manu Vunipola (Saracens)
9 Gus Warr (Sale Sharks)
1 Olly Adkins (Gloucester Rugby)
2 Alfie Barbeary (Wasps)
3. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
4 Joel Kpoku (Saracens)
5 James Scott (Worcester Warriors)
6 Tom Willis (Wasps) – captain
7 Andy Christie (Saracens)
8 Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
16 Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors)
17 Ben Atkins (London Irish)
18 Alfie Petch (Exeter Chiefs)
19 Jon Kpoku (Saracens)
20 Izaiha Moore-Aiono (London Irish)
21.Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie)
22 Will Haydon Wood (Newcastle Falcons)
23 Jack Reeves (Gloucester Rugby)