- England Under 20 centre Ryan Mills on new season
- We have a strong bunch of players – Mills
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It’s been five months, 23 days and getting on for nine hours since England Under 20 tasted Junior World Championship final defeat in Italy (not that anyone’s counting) but far from dismissing the loss as ‘one of those things’, Gloucester centre Ryan Mills insists that the surviving members of that squad will use New Zealand’s 33-22 win as a driving force this season.
Mills, 19, played a significant role for Rob Hunter’s side during both the impressive 6 Nations Grand Slam triumph and then the ultimately fruitless JWC campaign – appearing in eight of 10 matches – and is just one of nine players with previous U20 experience, making him one of the more senior players.
“I suppose I am one of the older ones now,” he said. “But we have a strong bunch of players coming through from the Under 18s and I’m more than happy to pass on my own experiences if it helps the team.
Photo: Getty Images
"We bonded well as a group last year, and while losing in the JWC final was tough to take I think it’s made me stronger as a player, and having another crack at it next summer gives us the chance to right a few wrongs.
"We pushed the All Blacks hard over in Italy, and knowing that we could have won that final is a huge driving force for us – it’s a massive motivating tool.
“The likes of myself, Elliot Daly, George Ford, Matt Kvesic and Dan Robson have been together for a couple of years now, and that continuity is crucial – we know how each other play and hopefully that transcends into performances on the pitch.
"The key to any successful side is teamwork and the good thing about this squad is that we always have each other’s backs.”
Mills has just returned from training camp in Portugal with the England squad and adds that the chance to train in a warmer climate and bond as a team is important to a successful season.
“We had a really good week out there,” he said. “I missed the first day because I had to have a scan at Gloucester, but it was pretty evident to me that the lads had been working hard and it was easy to slot in.
“Our attack looks very sharp this year; there are threats all across the backline. There’s still a bit to work on though and we need to improve our execution, but you don’t want to be peaking too soon.”
England U20 kick off their Grand Slam defence against Scotland in Firhill on Friday February 10.