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England U20: Five to watch at the JWC

03 June 2011

  • We put the spotlight on five players heading to Italy for JWC
  • England take on Ireland in their first game on June 10
Five to watch from the England U20 squad

Photo: Getty Images

With the England U20 squad kicking off their Italian Junior World Championships campaign against Ireland on June 10, we highlight five of the rising stars aiming to win games and titles at junior level before stepping up into the Saxons and Senior squads in the near future.

This current crop of U20 starlets already has a 6 Nations Grand Slam win under their belts, and if they can reproduce that sort of form in Italy, then Rob Hunter’s men could be in for a successful summer.

George Ford (Leicester Tigers)

England U20 and Leicester Tigers fly half George Ford

Photo: Getty Images

Much has been said of George Ford, but hardworking and humble sums him up to a tee. Despite being regarded by many as the hottest property in English rugby at present, the Oldham-born fly half is not phased in the slightest. George is the youngest member of the current U20 squad – he turned 18 in the week leading up to England’s Grand Slam win in Ireland last March – but the Leicester Tigers No.10 has undoubted maturity beyond his years. It’s all too easy to liken his rugby approach to Jonny Wilkinson’s, but Ford is keen to be known as his own man. With incredible natural ability, an excellent kicking game and a superb tactical nous – the rugby world is at his feet.

Joe Launchbury (London Wasps)

England U20 and London Wasps lock Joe Launchbury

Photo: Getty Images

Standing at an imperious 6’6’’, Joe has a genuine hunger to succeed at the highest level, and his athleticism in the line out will go a long way in helping the versatile forward achieve his goals. Not afraid to get stuck in, Joe has represented Wasps on several occasions in the Aviva Premiership this season, including a baptism of fire debut at Welford Road against Leicester Tigers. A man of the match performance for England against Ireland in their Grand Slam winning match cemented Joe’s spot within the U20 squad, and he looks set to play a pivotal role in the side in Italy.

Ryan Mills (Gloucester Rugby)

England U20 and Gloucester centre Ryan Mills

Photo: Getty Images

A superb ability to pick a pass and a strong understanding of the game has guided the way for Ryan’s development through the England age grades and to the Gloucester Rugby first team. The athletic 18-year-old recently made his Aviva Premiership debut against Saracens, where he came up against international team mate Owen Farrell, and with a schools AASE league win with Hartpury and a 6 Nations title already under his belt, you wouldn’t bet against the dynamic Exeter-born centre achieving much more.

Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

England U20 and Saracens prop Mako Vunipola

Photo: Getty Images

Descending from an established Tongan rugby dynasty – Mako’s father Fe’ao represented Toga in two world cups – the former Bristol prop is an imposing figure for any opposing front row. With skills defying his position, Mako is an impressive all-rounder and a key cog in England’s forceful pack. A switch to Saracens this summer should give Mako the top-level experience he craves, where he may come up against little brother Billy, who represents London Wasps.

Matt Kvesic (Worcester Warriors)

England U20 and Worcester flanker Matt Kvesic

Photo: Getty Images

A regular in the Worcester first team set up, flanker Matt Kvesic – who is part Croatian – has undoubtedly been one of the main beneficiaries of Warriors’ relegation to the Championship. Invaluable game time has become the norm for Matt, who is strong in the tackle and quick with the step. He also has a keen eye for the try line, scoring twice for England in their opening 6 Nations match against Wales in Llanelli.