- Bath fly half makes first start for England U20 against Ireland U20
- Incentive to win Championship is a “massive motivation” says Heathcote
After three weeks on club duty for Bath Rugby, Tom Heathcote returns to the England Under 20 squad and will make his first start in the U20 6 Nations decider against Ireland U20 on Friday night.
The 20-year-old is the fifth fly half to start for England in as many games this year but believes Head Coach Rob Hunter’s selection choices reflect the strength in depth of the squad rather than causing disruption.
George Ford, Henry Slade, Tommy Bell and Ryan Mills have all worn the No. 10 shirt since January, but Heathcote feels he has slotted in well to the side and is looking forward to the game.
“It definitely shows the strength in depth of the guys we have got that everyone has had a different fly half every game and everyone has shown what can do and played the position well,” he told RFUtv.
“But obviously it’s hard for the other guys – it’s a bit hard for Dan [Robson] playing nine. He has had a different fly half every game so obviously it probably makes it a bit more difficult for him.
“It probably hasn’t helped the continuity that much but at the same time we’ll always have the same players, we’ll always have the same calls and all the guys know each other and get on pretty well so in that sense it should be quite a smooth transition for everyone who is playing on Friday and I’ve found that this week.
“Everyone knows what they are doing, everyone talks a lot so it has been easy to slot in.”
Ireland U20 go into the game on course for a Grand Slam but despite a narrow loss to France last weekend, England U20 will still win the Championship on points difference if they conquer the Irish on Friday night at London Wasps’ Adams Park.
Heathcote knows it is a tough ask but is confident in the ability of the players to make it happen.
“They’ll be fired up with the chance to go for the Grand Slam which will be pretty special. But for us the incentive to win the championship is still there. With our points difference we still finish top if we win the game so that is a massive motivation the fact that that is still there despite us losing a game.
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“It’s going to be a battle and it’s going to be a huge game but we are confident going into it that we have got the players, we have got the ability and we have got the system to win the game.”
Having come on as a replacement in the win against Scotland, Heathcote has been back on club duty for Bath and was part of the side that lost to Leicester in the LV= Cup semi-final on Friday night.
But he has been keeping a close eye on the U20 progress and says there has been “some great tries and some great rugby” and is looking forward to being back in the mix.
He added: “It’s a massive game. I’m pretty excited to be making my first start. It’s a winner takes all game – whoever wins the game wins the championship. It’s really exciting for everyone and a chance for us to get back after the loss to France last week. So everyone is really buzzing for the game and is really looking forward to it, looking sharp in training and can’t wait for Friday night.”