- England Under 20 captain Alex Gray looks ahead to Junior World Championship
- Fast Italian pitches will suit our style of play says Newcastle Falcons No.8
Photo: Getty Images
England Under 20 captain Alex Gray expects the fast pitches in Italy to suit his side’s expansive style of play when the squad start their Junior World Championship (JWC) campaign against Ireland on Wednesday.
Rob Hunter’s 6 Nations Grand Slam winners arrive in Treviso on Saturday, ready to try and better England’s fourth place finish at the 2010 JWC in Argentina.
And Newcastle Falcons No.8 Gray believes pace in the backs and high-quality handing in the forwards give England a great chance of achieving that goal.
Speaking exclusively to RFU.com, the 20-year-old said: "The hard grounds here in Italy will suit our quick and expansive style of play.
"We’ve got a lot of pace in the backline and in the forwards we’re a team who can throw the ball around – we showed that in the 6 Nations when the weather wasn’t the best, but we still put some big scores on teams. It’s something to look forward to, especially being out in the sun.
"We’ve got everything you need in a good side; we’ve got pace, we’ve got ball carriers, we’ve got a good set-piece and that’s why we’re so confident of doing well."
The strongest England side i've played in – Gray
Photo: Getty Images
Gray’s burgeoning career is embellished by extensive captaincy experience, having led the national representative sides at Under 16 and Under 18 level, as well as the North, Durham and his school Barnard Castle.
He considers this the best age grade side he’s played in and while England are boosted by the confidence of a Grand Slam this season, clinched with a 46-15 win over first JWC opponents Ireland, the captain sounded a note of caution.
Gray, who scored five tries during the 2011 6 Nations, said: "I’d say that this is the strongest England squad I’ve played in throughout the age grades.
"Obviously a lot of us have come through together which is great – we’re all maturing into good players and while there’s still a lot more to come, we’re ready to go out there and give it a real go.
"But we’re not getting ahead of ourselves, winning the Grand Slam is one thing but the JWC is a different thing altogether. The southern hemisphere sides are no mugs and we’ll need to be firing all cylinders to get past them.
"Things will be a little bit different when we play Ireland this time. Obviously playing them and beating them in Ireland was a big feat and not a lot of England U20 teams have done that, so we’re high on confidence and if we turn up we can beat them."