January 31, 2008
Hugo Ellis will lead England's Under 20 side into their Six Nations campaign which kicks off at Gloucester tomorrow night (7.45pm).
The London Wasps No.8 scored seven tries in seven games for the Under 19 side he captained last season and is joined in the team by nine other players stepping up from that age group.
The new faces include first starts at this level for Leicester Tigers full back Greig Tonks, Bristol Rugby centre Luke Eves and Northampton Saints hooker Joe Gray.
Also called up is Jordan Turner-Hall, the Harlequins centre who has made 10 Guinness Premiership appearances this term. Turner-Hall was capped at Under 20 level last year before injury ended his season.
Joe Simpson (London Wasps) was originally due to start at scrum half before picking up an ankle injury in training.
His setback allows Ben Youngs the chance to step up and showcase the skills that earned him a place in Leicester's Guinness Premiership final winning side last season with Jonny Arr (Worcester Warriors) coming onto the bench.
"We believe we've got a good balance to the side with lots of pace in the back three, power in midfield and a very mobile and athletic pack," said coach Nigel Redman. "We're very excited about working with this group of players.
"They've made a lot of progress over the last six months as many of those who were involved in last year's Under 19s were still at school and now they're fully integrated into club programmes and getting a lot of game time."
The competition for places has hotted up too, according to the former Bath, England and Lions lock.
"Joe Simpson would have started but it was a very tight call between him and Ben Youngs, and Ben's a very exciting player who now has a chance to take," he said.
"That competition for places is part of the culture of the side and very important for its development. We're seeing that in lots of areas, particularly in the back three where there are four quick wings all putting pressure on each other."
Wales are particularly strong at age-group level and Redman warned that they might be this season's toughest opponents.
"Wales have produced some terrific young players and traditionally do very well at this level - they're consistently good at the 18, 19 and 20 age groups," he said.
"We're expecting the same from them tomorrow and that they'll bring a tough physical test and a high skill level to the game."
England Under 20 team v Wales
(at Gloucester, Friday, February 1, 7.45pm)
15 Greig Tonks (Leicester Tigers)
14 Noah Cato (Saracens)
13 Luke Eves (Bristol Rugby)
12 Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)
11 Miles Benjamin (Worcester Warriors)
10 Alex Goode (Saracens)
9 Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
1 Nathan Catt (Bath Rugby)
2 Joe Gray (Northampton Saints)
3 Alex Corbisiero (London Irish)
4 Gregor Gillanders (Leicester Tigers)
5 Scott Hobson (Cornish Pirates)
6 Jon Fisher (London Irish)
7 Andy Saull (Saracens)
8 Hugo Ellis (London Wasps, captain)
16 Scott Freer (Leeds Carnegie)
17 Billy Moss (Bath Rugby)
18 Ben Thomas (Saracens)
19 Matt Cox (Worcester Warriors)
20 Jonny Arr (Worcester Warriors)
21 Seb Stegmann (Harlequins)
22 Dan Norton (Gloucester Rugby)