Two Wasps named in England U20 team to face Italy

Wasps' Tom Willis and Gabriel Oghre have been named in the England U20s team to take on Italy in the opening match of the 2018 Six Nations.

Tom Willis will start at number eight, with Gabriel Oghre named as the replacement hooker, as both players look to make their debuts for England U20. 

The side, who won the Grand Slam last season, face Italy at Stadio Enzo Bearzot, Gorizia on Friday (kick-off 6pm GMT).

There will be seven players making their debut at U20 level, with five more set to win their first cap off the bench.

England will be led by Saracens flanker Ben Earl and he will be joined in the backrow by debutants Sam Moore and Tom Willis.

Prop Toby Trinder and lock James Scott are also included in the starting XV for the first time with the U20s.

Scrum half Ben White, who is also uncapped at this level, partners James Grayson at half back, while centre Fraser Dingwall and wing Ben Loader are also set to make their debuts for the U20s.

The side include eight members of the squad that reached the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia last year.

England U20s are led by head coach Steve Bates who is assisted by Anthony Allen, Richard Blaze and James Ponton as part of the coach development programme agreement between the RFU and Premiership Rugby.

Steve Bates said: “It’s been really difficult to select a XV because we have some very talented young players and several of them have performed very well over the first half of the season.

“Choosing the 32-man elite player squad was difficult enough, so narrowing that down has been even tougher. We’ve tried to take into consideration the way they have performed in our two camps, which has been first class, as well as the games they’ve played up until Christmas.

“We’ll play high-intensity, high-tempo rugby against Italy and I expect us to be robust and direct. We’ve also talked about being reactive throughout the tournament and I think we have a side that is very versatile.

“Excitement is building among the squad, this is the first match of the tournament and we’re determined to make our own history.

“Ben Earl is experienced and was with us all of last season, including throughout the World Rugby U20 Championship. His leadership qualities there were very evident, he is passionate, competitive and leads by example on and off the pitch. He is tactically astute and also a very good player.

“Most of the players in the senior side have played U20 rugby so that shows the strength of the pathway. The pathway is there to promote players through the programme and the new caps will be excited about following in the footsteps of some very special players. They recognise how big an opportunity this is for them.”
 
England U20 side to face Italy, Six Nations:
*denotes uncapped player

15. Tom Parton (London Irish)
14. Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
13. Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints)*
12. Will Butler (Worcester Warriors)
11. Ben Loader (London Irish)*
10. James Grayson (Northampton Saints)
9. Ben White (Leicester Tigers)*
8. Tom Willis (Wasps)*
7. Ben Earl (Saracens)
6. Sam Moore (Sale)*
5. James Scott (Worcester Warriors)*
4. Dino Lamb (Harlequins)
3. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
2. Henry Walker (Gloucester)
1.Toby Trinder (Northampton Saints)*

Replacements
16. Gabriel Oghre (Wasps)*
17. Alex Seville (Gloucester)
18. Joe Morris (Worcester Warriors)
19. Sam Lewis (Leicester Tigers)*
20. Josh Basham (London Irish)*
21. Rory Brand (London Irish)
22. Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers)*
23. Jordan Olowofela (Leicester Tigers)*

Willis and Oghre are also in line to enjoy the rare distinction of representing their country on home turf when Ireland's under 20's and women's teams visit the Ricoh Arena for a double-header on Friday March 16.

Tickets provide entry to both games and are just £10 for adults. They can be purchased from www.eticketing.co.uk/ricoharena.