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England reap the benefits of RFU Championship success

08 February 2013

  • Elite, Saxons and U20 squad all make use of Championship grounds
  • U20s get 6 Nations campaign off to winning start
England U20s line up to take on Scotland U20s

Photo: Getty Images

Over the last fortnight, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Home of England Rugby was not Twickenham, but the RFU Championship, as three second-tier clubs hosted the Elite, Saxons and U20s squads. 

On January 25, the Elite squad held an open training session at Leeds Carnegie’s Headingley Stadium as part of their preparations for their RBS 6 Nations clash with Scotland. 

Six thousand local rugby enthusiasts, from schools, universities, and colleges turned out at the home of Carnegie – who currently sit fourth in the RFU Championship table – to watch Stuart Lancaster’s side be put through their paces. 

Lancaster believes it is of utmost importance to keep connected with the communities who make up the grassroots level of the game.

Former Leeds Carnegie player and England scrum half Danny Care was impressed with the turnout and thought that the benefits were clear to see. 

“To see around 4,000/5,000 people here, with loads of kids, is great for Leeds and great for the club,” he commented. 

“I have loads of special memories of the stadium because it was part of my growing up and my rugby career. The club gave me my first chance to show what I could do at the top level so I owe them a lot." 

Meanwhile, on February 1, England Saxons faced Scotland A at Newcastle Falcons' Kingston Park, which, following a tight affair, saw the visitors edge the win in front of 6,500 supporters.  

"I have loads of special memories of the stadium" – Care

Leicester fly half George Ford kicked three penalties for England, but Saracens wing Duncan Taylor’s first-minute try proved to be the only score of the contest, and eight points from Tom Heathcote’s boot gave the Scots a 13-9 victory. 

On the same night over 400 miles away on the south coast, Plymouth Albion’s Brickfields Stadium played host to the England U20 team, as they overcame their Scottish counterparts 15-6. 

The U20s got their 6 Nations campaign off to a perfect start, with dual-registered Albion prop Luke Cowan-Dickie adding a score to a first-half penalty try. 

Henry Slade, also dual-registered with hometown club Plymouth Albion, won the Sky Sports HD Man of the Match award after kicking five points. 

Slade told the Plymouth Herald: “It was a tough win. Scotland obviously had the wind and came at us hard in the first half. We struggled to get out of our half at times and they forced us to run the ball more, and we coughed up a few balls. 

"But in the end we're happy with the points. It was a tough night, but a win's a win." 

Slade and Cowan-Dickie were two of four England starters currently plying their trade in the Championship, with Jack Arnott also dual-registered with Plymouth and Exeter and Sam Hill on a similar arrangement between Cornish Pirates and the Chiefs.