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England recognition is the spur as National U20 Championship hots up

16 February 2011

  • Kent through to London & South East semi after defeating Surrey and Sussex
  • All to play for as county U20 players eye possible England selection

With one round of matches to go this Sunday (February 20) in the London & South East group stage of the National U20 Championship, Kent are waiting to see who will join them in next month's regional semi-finals.

Kent won the second of their Group C matches 32-14 at home to Sussex at Old Elthamians RFC last Sunday (February 13) to make it through as group winners to the London & South East play-offs at Old Albanians in Hertfordshire on March 6.

Eastern Counties will finish top of Group A if they defeat Middlesex at Shelford, while in Group B there is a decider between Hertfordshire and Hampshire at Harpenden RFC.

All the competing teams know there is also a chance of qualifying for the last four as the best group runners-up.

The eventual winners of the London & South East region will take part in the semi-finals of the National U20 Championship, and there is plenty more at stake in this exciting age group of English grassroots rugby.

During this county-based U20 Championship, a team will be selected to represent the London & South East against the South West division on April 3 at Clifton RFC near Bristol.

And players taking part in the above matches plus a meeting of the North and Midlands divisions will be eligible for selection for the new England U20 Counties team to face Scotland U20 on Friday May 6 in Leeds.

Supplying England stars of the future

This mirrors the senior England Counties XV set-up, which has helped bring through full England internationals  Shaun Perry, Dean Schofield, David Strettle and Ben Foden in recent years, as well as assisting Strettle, James Rodwell and Nick Royle towards the England Sevens team.

The list of players graduating into the Aviva Premiership via the Counties XV is also extensive.

"The introduction of the England Counties U20 team brings a real focus to the National U20 Championship," said team manager Malcolm Ross, RFU Council representative for Leicestershire.

"The aim is to help inspire local players to represent their counties in the championship by giving them a chance to wear an England shirt.

"We believe the addition of a local-to-national pathway for players in the National U20 Championship is a significant step forward in recognising the importance of this age group and the role of the competition in retaining these players in the game.

"Pulling on an England shirt has meant a great deal to the senior Counties XV players. In most cases because it has been the pinnacle of their rugby careers, although for a very gifted few, it has been the stepping stone to better things.

"Hopefully for our U20 players, winning an England shirt will also be a major milestone in their rugby careers and an inspiration which takes them onwards and upwards.

National U20 Championship 2010/11

London & South East fixtures

Group A

February 6: Middlesex 13 Essex 20 (at Saracens Amateurs)

February 13: Essex 13 Eastern Counties 24 (at Romford)

February 20: Eastern Counties v Middlesex (at Shelford)

Group B

February 6:  Hampshire 69 Army 0 (at HMS Collingwood)

February 13: Army v Hertfordshire – walkover for Hertfordshire

February 20: Hertfordshire v Hampshire (at Harpenden)

Group C

February 6: Surrey 20 Kent 26 (at Dorking)

February 13: Kent 32 Sussex 14 (at Old Elthamians)

February 20: Sussex v Surrey (at Midhurst)

Play-offs

March 6: at Old Albanians RFC, Hertfordshire - Semi finals involving three group winners and runners-up with the most points

Final

March 20: at Old Albanians RFC - Match between play-off winners to produce semi finalist in National U20 Championship

April 17: National U20 Championship semi-finals

May 14/15: National U20 Championship final