- Yorkshire and Gloucestershire U20 aim for Twickenham again
- Opportunities in new England Counties team adds spice
Yorkshire face arguably the biggest hurdle they are likely to encounter in the defence of their National Under 20 crown when they take on Gloucestershire, the side they beat last season to claim the title, at Halifax RUFC on Sunday (April 17) in the semi-finals.
The other teams to have reached the last four, Hampshire and Leicestershire, who meet on Sunday at Basingstoke, may have a different assessment of the importance of the Ovenden Park clash, but the form-book insists that the winners in Yorkshire will be favourites to go on and win the title.
An appearance in a Twickenham final, however, is by no means the only incentive for the all four semi-finalists on Sunday.
The inaugural outing of the newly-formed England Counties Under 20 team will be against Scotland Under 20 at West Park Leeds on May 6 (7.30) and the final selection process ahead of that game has been held back to take in this weekend’s brace of games.
Chance to win place in England Counties U20 squad
While there was obvious satisfaction at the calibre of performance given by the South West in their Divisional Trial against London & South East, the selectors were by no means as happy with the corresponding North v Midlands game at Morley.
That game produced 12 tries and plenty of entertainment, but passion and bite were absentees and players who were considered a shoe-in for the squad gave luke-warm displays.
The Halifax game, therefore, offers an unscheduled visit to the 'last chance saloon' for a number of England hopefuls in the Yorkshire ranks and a final, extra opportunity for Gloucestershire lads to stake a claim for recognition.
"I understand that although a provisional squad has been chosen, there are a number positions where the selectors are still undecided," said Yorkshire Team Manager Keith Dyas. "That gives our players every motivation to deliver their very best and after a good training session last Sunday at York RI, I’m sure that’s what we’ll get."
Yorkshire make one change to the starting line-up against Lancashire in their previous game. Sam Watkinson, who played for the North, takes the No.10 shirt, with Greg Lound moving to the replacement bench, where centre Ben Johnson wins a place after a series of impressive displays with the East Coast club.
Yorkshire U20 v Gloucestershire U20
Thomas Hodson (Sandal); Rob Almond (Harrogate), James Holland (Bradford & Bingley), Peter Homan (Middlesbrough), William Robinson (Hull); Sam Watkinson (Durham Un/Ripon), Mark Gemmell (Leeds Met University); William Dutton (York), Tom Moody (Morley), Josh Bayford (Durham Un/Sandal), Stuart Cross (Manchester University), Sam Brady (Pontefract), Carl Kirwan (Middlesbrough), Ben Dorrington (Hull), Ben Morris (Westoe) capt.
Replacements: Jack Moon (Old Brodleians), Greg Lound (Hull), Ben Jonson (Bridlington), Ben Sowery (Wharfedale), Adam Malthouse (Yarnbury), Mike Bradshaw (Driffield), Tom Bagnall (Hull).