- South West dominates England Counties U20 selection
- Semi-final success underlines Gloucestershire pedigree
National RU Under 20 finalists Gloucestershire have nine players in the inaugural England Counties Under 20 squad which will face Scotland Under 20s at West Park Leeds on Friday, May 6, kick-off 7.30pm.
The South West contingent underlined their calibre when they put Yorkshire to the sword in emphatic style in the Under 20 Championship semi-final at Halifax on Sunday and with the South West Divisional team also having produced a dominant display to beat London & South East in the trials for the England Counties U20 team, it is no surprise to see that team contributing a dozen players.
"I have been watching Under 20 Counties rugby for 15 years or so and I think this Gloucestershire team is the best I have seen in all that time," says England Counties Under 20 Team Manager Malcolm Ross.
"They have power, pace and a lot of rugby skill and I’m sure the South West contingent will make a big impact on our performance. When you supplement that level of talent with the cream of the other counties, you get a very strong side.
"With a top-class coaching team of Bob Hood and Paul Cox and Bob Clilverd bringing a real professional edge to the selection process, I’m very excited about watching the team perform.
"It is also worth mentioning that there is a great enthusiasm among the lads for representing England in what is a new team and it was quite an emotional experience calling them up individually to tell them they were in the squad for Leeds.
"All that said, I know Scotland will provide top-quality opposition. They have already been together for a while in the Six Nations Under 20 Championship and their game against us is part of their preparations for their second major tournament campaign of the season. They are heading to Italy at the end of the month to finalise their build-up to the IRB Junior World Championships that takes place from June 3-27.
"Our game represents a last chance for squad members to impress ahead of pool meetings with South Africa, England and Ireland, so the Scottish lads will have every incentive to impress."
The decision to delay selection until after the National Under 20 Semis proved to be a godsend for lock Miles Normandale, who was elevated straight from the Gloucestershire side into the Counties squad on the strength of his performance at Halifax.
England Counties Under 20 squad:
Sam Arnott (Southend, South West & Gloucestershire), Joe Atkinson (Loughborough Un/Petersfield, London & SE & Hampshire), Josh Beaumont (Fylde, North & Lancashire), Elliott Brierley (Macclesfield, North & Cheshire), Tom Channon (Newton Abbot, South West & Devon), Ben West (Newbury, South West & Berkshire), Tom Harrison (UWE Hartpury, South West & Gloucestershire), Reuben Haile (Cinderford, South West & Gloucestershire), Peter Homan (Middlesbrough, North & Yorkshire), Carl Kirwan (Middlesbrough, North & Yorkshire), Miles Normandale (University of Wales Institute Cardiff, Gloucestershire), Joe Pass (Derby, Midlands & Notts, Lincs & Derby), Aaron Penberthy (Redruth, South West & Cornwall), Caldon Pike (Loughborough Students, South West & Berkshire), Matt Shields (Tynedale, North & Northumberland), Ben Sowery (Wharfedale, North & Yorkshire), Ben Sparks (Stourbridge, South West & Gloucestershire) capt, Chris Surman (Loughborough University, South West & Gloucestershire), Pierre Tucker (Dings Crusaders, South West & Gloucestershire), Brett Turner (Lydney, South West & Gloucestershire), Liam Wilkinson (UWE Bristol, South West & Gloucestershire), Andrew Murray (Nuneaton, Midlands & Warwickshire)