On Sunday, this year’s England U20s flew over to Portugal for a camp at Brown Leisure Club, near Vilamoura. The camp is part of their preparations for the 6 Nations, which starts in February with a game against Scotland, and finishes at Adams Park against Ireland.
Nathan Morris is one of four Wasps youngsters included in the squad along with Alec Hepburn, Billy Vunipola and Elliot Daly. Having represented Wasps at first team level a number of times this season, featuring on the bench in the London Double Header against Saracens as well as being named on the bench against Bayonne last weekend, Morris has shown a lot of promise at such a young age. He says that the England U20s have had a lot of hard work to do in Portugal, but that they have begun to bond well and are enjoying a welcome change in the weather.
“We arrived on Sunday and had that day to relax and acclimatise to our surroundings. On the Monday, we had a 7am alarm with training starting at 8. First up was the endurance test at 8am, which was a nice welcome present! Then each day has been split into three blocks with a morning training session before breakfast between 8am-9.3. After breakfast we have had strength and conditioning in the gym, followed by prehab and skills at 11 till 1. We then have an afternoon session at 3.30-5, with recovery post training. Hard days!”
“The first day was a welcome change from back home in England, with bright sunshine, but since then there has been a lot of rain. The guys are really keen to get out there in the sun and with the firm ground and everyone is enjoying being able to start using a bit of pace as back in England it’s a bit soft under foot. Its brilliant being out here in Portugal as all the lads are in the same boat together and are all out to make the most of it.”
Last year, Wasps were represented by four players in the England U20 side, which won a Grand Slam and made it to the final of the Junior World Cup, with all four Wasps players starting in that Final. This year Wasps again have four representatives, but Morris says that the successes of last year’s team has very little bearing on this year’s group of players, who all want to make their own mark on the international stage.
“We have one more camp in January and then we are straight into the 6 Nations mirroring the 1st team fixtures. Scotland in February is a great driving force that all of us are geared towards and are beginning to focus on. There’s a lot of excitement in camp and everyone just wants to pull on the shirt again, or for the first time in some cases.”
“We are obviously aware of what’s gone before us with last year’s U20s group winning the Grand Slam and getting to the Final of the Junior World Cup, but the way we see it is that this is our opportunity now to put our stamp as a squad on the England 20s shirt and make it our own. What has gone before us is not relevant to our success as a group. We aim to play a similar attractive style, but don’t weigh ourselves down with the pressure of previous seasons, we have the talent to go the distance but all we are concentrating on is getting every small facet right to be a good team. Come next summer, we can then judge how successful we have been.”
A lot of this year’s squad will have played together in the England U18s and some at even younger ages, but as an England U20s group they are a new side who want to gain their own successes. Morris says that the opportunity to come together with players from a number of different backgrounds and represent your country is a really positive experience for a young player’s development and is one that he hopes to take as much from as he can.
"The squad are gelling together very well. A lot of us know each other from playing England U18s so people generally know each other but it is a great opportunity to get to know each other. So far, everyone is getting together very well and we are all pretty happy.”
“I believe the age grade set-ups are an invaluable experience. It brings together lads from all over the country with different rugby ethos' and you have to learn to adapt very quickly, which is something that is key to being a top level professional rugby player. You have to really take on board what you learn here in camp and try to take some bits back to your club to work on. It’s also a fresh break from the same old environment and with a lot of travelling and great experiences; it’s a massive opportunity for any player.“
“Playing in the England U20s is a great opportunity for any young player. First of all, I have to personally do everything in my power to get as much from the experience as I can, which in my eyes is trying to start as many of the games as I can and give a good account of myself. In terms of the success of the team, I will do everything in my power to ensure a 6 nations grand slam, and give a good platform to go through to the World Cup in June and ultimately challenge the best teams in the world.”
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