- Cowan-Dickie and Watson target win in JWC curtain-raiser against France
- “We've got the right ethos this year” – Watson
Luke Cowan-Dickie and Anthony Watson are intent on driving England Under 20s to an improved performance at this summer’s Junior World Championship in France, which kicks off with a tough tie against the hosts on June 5.
Versatile Exeter Chiefs front-rower Cowan-Dickie was part of a squad that could only manage seventh place in South Africa last summer after a group-stage defeat to eventual champions the Baby Boks.
And while Bath-bound flyer Watson was ruled out of the tournament altogether due to a foot problem, he seemed eager to make a significant contribution this time around.
“This is a great competition and all the boys are really looking forward to it, me specifically,” he explained. “I missed out last year and had a pretty frustrating Six Nations as well as well, being injured for three out of the five games.
“I just want to work as hard as possible and see how far that can take me over the course of the World Championship.
“We’ve got the right ethos this year – everybody has gone done a lot of fitness and gym-work since the end of our club campaigns, so we’ve left ourselves in really good stead.”
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Equally keen to hit the ground running at the start of next month, Cowan-Dickie suggested Nick Walshe’s charges would not be hindered by the disappointment of 2012.
However, he also warned that a 40-10 Six Nations thrashing of France at Worcester back in February would have little bearing on the June 5 curtain-raiser.
Indeed, having been on the wrong end of a 16-15 defeat over The Channel last year, Cowan-Dickie was adamant that there would be no complacency, especially at the set-piece.
“We’re a completely different group of players,” he said. “There’s only a few of us left [from the last Junior World Championship] – so it’ll be a good experience and hopefully we can do a bit better.
“It’ll be different against France in their home country with a home crowd. The French love to watch rugby and [in 2012] they had about 8,000 people there, so I’m sure there will be a hell of a crowd this time round.
“It’s up to us to step up to the mark – I doubt the 40-14 win will do anything, really. They’ve always had a good scrum so going into the game we will do a bit of work on that. After that, we’ll have to see what happens.”
Buoyed by the progression of former England age-group stars Marland Yarde and Matt Kvesic – both of whom have been called up to tour South America with Stuart Lancaster’s seniors – the current crop of Under 20s have something tangible to aim for.
“If you can play well and perform, they will look at pushing you higher up,” continued Cowan-Dickie. “If you’re good enough, you will get your chance.”
Watson added: “There’s a lot to learn from Marland Yarde and Matt Kvesic, but everyone just needs to get their heads down.
“We’ve got to take it game by game at the World Cup and work hard both in training and out on the field.”